not the answer
May 11, 2010, 6:00AM
Illegal immigration remains a serious problem in the United States, but the draconian new law in Arizona is no kind of solution. Just as impractical is a knock-off of the Arizona statute that has been proposed in Michigan.
The only sensible answer remains comprehensive federal immigration reform of the type that has eluded Congress for years. Though the flood of illegal immigrants heading across the border affects individual states, and states such as Arizona more severely than others, the problem is a national one that demands a national answer.
That law should have two major emphases. First, the federal government must do a better job of securing America’s porous southern border. That means stepped up enforcement. Employers that knowingly hire illegal immigrants deserve tougher scrutiny, too.
Second, there needs to be a path to citizenship for those who are here illegally. Many of these people have become part of the structures of our society, employed in service industries and agriculture, and interwoven into family relationships with American citizens. Ejecting the estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants is a practical impossibility that threatens the country’s economy and would tear apart well-established families.
The route to legal membership in U.S. society should not be simple or easy. Fines should be levied, and those who violated the rules should go to the back of the citizenship line behind people who came to the country through legitimate channels.
The path-to-citizenship proposal has been the sticking point in past reform attempts. The resistance fails to recognize that the majority of the people in this country illegally are here for the same reasons people have sought America since its founding: economic opportunity, a better life for their children, a free society, the chance to contribute.
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