Tuesday, 20 April 2010


Brace yourself, Bridget. It’s time we dealt with the thorny subject of illegal immigration.
“Undocumented” is a more compassionate adjective but those who oppose any leniency will have no truck with it; besides when I jumped ship here myself, I was aware of the illegality of my actions. With time and assistance I was able to gain a legal foothold then follow the long and winding road to citizenship.
I have a deep sympathy for those currently in this dreaded limbo for I never got a chance to say goodbye to the grandfather that raised me - returning to Ireland during his final days would have jeopardized my status.
Regardless, it’s now or never for immigration reform! Democrats will lose seats in November and Republicans have no intention of grasping this particular nettle.
The once magisterial Senator John McCain has fled the field. There’s nothing quite like a right wing primary challenge to bring this immigration maverick to heel.
However, by bucking the zealots in his own party and co-sponsoring a comprehensive bill on immigration reform, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham may be the most courageous politician to come down the pike of late.
Oddly enough, this controversial proposal could provide part of the solution to our fiscal crisis for there may be as many as ten million people operating outside the taxation system - a huge loss of both state and federal revenue.
Perhaps it’s time to bring them in from the cold? This would, no doubt, cause great concern to those who believe that amnesty is not only unethical but also sends a wrong message. But let’s face it - the current system is just not working.
The proposed Schumer-Graham Bill provides no mere slap on the wrist; it would require the undocumented to not only admit they broke the law but pay fines and back taxes. That would provide a huge revenue bonanza that could go to reducing the national debt.
In addition, all candidates would have to pass background checks and gain a working knowledge of English before being allowed to work toward lawful permanent residence.
Schumer-Graham also proposes that prospective candidates engage in meaningful community service. Think of the positive energy that might unleash nationwide.
For those concerned with security, the bill makes clear that gang members, smugglers, terrorists and those who have committed felonies since arriving need not apply. Added to this, all citizens and legal immigrants would be issued an ID card with embedded biometric information that would make future illegal entry even harder.
Would new unqualified people seek to come here after the present ones gain legal status? Of course, but that will always be the case when there is great economic imbalance between nations. Still, the new security measures will turn a flood into a trickle.
This country was built by immigrants - legal and illegal! It’s time to unleash the potential of those living in the shadows. They’re not going back so let’s harness their capabilities. Most are young, energetic and eager to work their way up the economic ladder.
The “fortress America” attitude fostered in the wake of 9/11 is not only damaging our national psyche but our pocketbooks. What madness to educate the best and brightest of foreign students then send them home rather than utilizing their talents.
Immigrants were at the forefront of the high tech boom until post-9/11 paranoia damned up much of their flow. Schumer-Graham would grant green cards to all immigrants who receive advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or math.
At the other end of the scale, there are many jobs in the agricultural, food and restaurant industries that Americans will not work at and must be filled.
This proposed law will be a bitter pill for many, but what are the alternatives? Let’s have a positive and meaningful national debate on the subject – not the politically-charged donnybrooks of the past. Sure, Schumer-Graham is radical, dramatic and divisive, but so was the founding of the country.
The US has always been seen as a shining city on the hill. It’s time to switch the lights full on again or at least light the penny candles of compromise and pass a watered-down, or alternative, bill that will give a stake in the country to those who can contribute.
Then many in our own community can finally go home, visit their loved ones and legally return to the lives they have created here.
But it’s now or never. You think April is the cruelest month, you ain’t seen nothing like November.

1 comment:

  1. I may not agree with you 100% of the time, man, but I love reading your blogs. Always thought provoking.


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