America’s Immigration Mess – The Next Big Issue?

by Diane Dimond on January 21, 2013

If Not Now – When?

~ In the midst of national debates on fiscal cliffs and gun control could this also be the time to tackle our immigration woes? ~

Let’s be honest and agree that U.S. immigration policy is a complete disaster. For too many decades this country has ignored violations of our immigration laws and now we have a real mess on our hands – an estimated 11 million people who have entered the country illegally and are living and working here under the radar.

Whose fault is it? There is plenty of blame to go around so I suggest we don’t even go there anymore.

Presidents from both parties have declared they would do something to curb the flood of foreigners illegally entering the country. No meaningful changes occurred. Over the years both political parties promised to punch into place an effective immigration policy. Yet Congress has still failed to pass laws that would truly get a grip on the problem.

Time to stop the blame game. Time to start figuring out what to do. Time for the one side to stop bellowing, “No amnesty!” and time for the other side to stop declaring, “No one is illegal.”

Intriguing to Say – But Not True

The cold hard facts are clear: Millions of people knowingly and willingly broke our laws by entering the U.S. illegally or staying here after their visas expired. These illegal immigrants (call them undocumented workers if it makes you feel better) knew that any day they could be caught but they proceeded to have children – the very children they complain about being separated from once the U.S. begins deportation efforts. Look, an individual’s past bad choices are not the fault of the host government.

But let’s face it, these folks and their families are settled here and a majority of them are otherwise law-abiding and hard working. It would be impossible to catch, convict and send home more than 11 million people. Besides, we are a nation that prides ourselves on human rights – our nation was founded on that principal and we boldly preach it to others. So, what does our conscience tell us we should do with those immigrants who find America such a desirable place to live that they would break their backs for a poverty-level wage just to raise their families here? Calling for mass deportations isn’t a workable solution at this point so give up the thought.

There are fresh indications that a President is once again going to push Congress for an overhaul of the immigration system. According to reports, President Obama’s proposal will include a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million but it apparently won’t be an easy journey. There will be provisions for fines, payment of back taxes and other obstacles that must be faced before the immigrant reaches the bona fide, tax paying status of an American citizen.

Will His Immigration Plan Be Dead-on-Arrival?

The president’s proposed legislation is also said to include a guest worker program for future immigrants, extra visas for highly skilled foreigners to legally remain here and a mandatory nationwide employment verification system that would check every workers legal status before they are hired. [The so-called E-verify system achieves this now but is strictly a voluntary program for employers.]

Would it be too much to ask the opposition party not to automatically hate the president’s proposal? Could the politicians somehow find a way to sit down and peacefully study the suggestions before declaring the plan dead-on-arrival? Maybe after a bi-partisan group of Senators finishes hammering out its version of an immigration reform package the two proposals could be calmly compromised into one great bill – for the good of the country.

Wouldn’t it be a refreshing change to see the toxic cloud of constant disagreement that envelopes Washington lift during this New Year?

Years ago when I first began this crime and justice column I used to write passionately about the immigration mess. I remember, literally, hammering the computer keys to try to express my outrage at the massive numbers of immigrants who had so boldly sneaked across our borders, living in our towns and taking our jobs.

An Emotion That Gets You Nowhere

I’ve come to realize outrage gets us nowhere. Accepting reality can get us somewhere – if it is then coupled with a desire to truly find solutions to the country’s biggest problems. To me, the problem of illegal immigrants is sort of like the gun debate currently raging across America. There are too many to wish away (311 million guns as I recently reported) so the only logical thing to do is figure out a way to more safely include them in society.

This is not an endorsement of the Obama plan. In fact, from what I’ve heard the president’s proposal might not be comprehensive enough. What’s the process for dealing with illegal aliens arrested for crimes committed on U.S. soil? Will the most violent be deported immediately or tried and imprisoned here first? What is to be done with those who re-enter the country? And most important, what is the plan to secure our still porous borders? No program will work very well if you leave unguarded the northern and southern entry points to the country.

There will always be more questions than answers at the beginning of trying to tackle a major problem. But the choice is clear. We either do nothing and let the situation fester further or we take steps to help turn those here illegally become taxpaying citizens. It could be a win-win for all concerned.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Dimond January 21, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Noozhawk Reader Herman Pfauter writes:

“I tried to reply to your column today on Noozhawk but for some reason could not register.
Thus a few comments directly to you:

While I agree with you in principle that we can not deport 11 – 18 million or more illegal immigrants
I think we should pursue the following approaches:

Our first priority should be to secure our borders with emphasis on our southern borders.

Next, we should combat the massive fraud that is pervasive throughout our broken immigration system.

We should eliminate magnets such as birthright citizenship, free health care, subsidized housing, welfare and schooling and other benefits for the offspring of illegal immigrants and, by extension, for their parents.

Driver licenses for illegals should be prohibited – scofflaws should not be rewarded for their crimes!

E-verify should be made mandatory in any employment situation.

Finally we should encourage illegals to self-deport by enforcing the laws we have.
It is called “Attrition Through Enforcement”. And it does work!
Handcuffing local law enforcement by preventing them from cooperating with ICE agents is the wrong approach because it turns law enforcement officers into law breakers.
Witness the federal government prosecuting states trying to act in the absence of meaningful and effective enforcement of our immigration laws by the federal government.

These measures alone would reduce the entire problem to more manageable levels.
When I arrived on these shores more than 50 years ago (legally, of course) the average annual immigration was around 250,000.
That was a reasonable level. Today annual immigration totals more than 10 times that number – a level which has become unsustainable, especially when we consider our own 20 million unemployed Americans…….
It strains our social fabric, our natural resources and ultimately endangers our existence as one nation.

Sincerely,

Herman Pfauter
Santa Barbara, CA

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Diane Dimond January 21, 2013 at 12:41 pm

ABQ Journal Reader Robert Noyes-Smith writes;


I am rapidly becoming a fan. Probably because I see the immigration problem in very much the same light. Being a legal immigrant myself (having taken some 2 plus years to file all my papers myself) I too am ticked off at Illegals but am also a pragmatist. I thought long about how to stop the influx and one idea was to put money into some tax free entrepreneur enterprise zones in Mexico that returning illegals could voluntary return to ( and be properly documented so that they don’t come back again) versus mass deportation. It’s an out of the box idea which is probably not practical and hence I really like your argument. If only we could find a few more reasonable people:):) “

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Diane Dimond January 21, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Reader Orin Hall writes:

“Demand is the key to economic prosperity. Government should spend more
not less. Consumers should spend more, and business should spend more.
We can spend our way into prosperity.”

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Diane Dimond January 21, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Twitter pal ILovePandas writes:

“@DiDimond There don’t seem to be any good solutions to #Americasimmigrationissue”

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Diane Dimond January 21, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Twitter pal ccts69 writes:

“@DiDimond @ShareThis For starters, enforce the laws that r currently in place.”

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Diane Dimond January 23, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Reader Lee Durso writes:

“I am retired 62 old female living in Henderson County Texas, one of the poorest counties in Texas. My youngest daughter is a teacher in Houston…99% Hispanic. For the last 4 years she remained in a elementary school that was ranked at the bottom of 700 plus elementary schools..terrible facility and a school that no child or adult should be in. This past summer the school was condemned in the wing that my daughter was in with rat and mold infestation. Fortunately after 4 years of probation she is now in a wonderful Magnet school 10 minutes away with the same demographics as the other…The difference is their are student requirements, safety checks, mandatory volunteers hours that make this school perform at the highest level. I have been in both schools in the past 5 years as a volunteer…the first school I spent 3 weeks in my daughter’s class….everyday and wanted to report the conditions to someone. So what does this have to do with your comments on immigration ….plenty!

Out country can not continue to take in all of these students going forward. Yes, this is still the best place to be as we can see from the amount of people that want to be here. Mexico does not have to do anything for its population in regard to education, health care, economic independence because the border states of the U.S. are taking this on. In a perfect world, which ours is not…rules should be respected…but they are not. I am totally in agreement with your position…with this additional suggestion…we can not give a blanket citizenship to those that are born here….this free education to illegals going forward should not be available….then I believe illegal immigration could be controlled…harsh…maybe…but the benefits to illegal immigration are so many that our neighbor Mexico will never move forward in the 21st century…The illegal parents at my daughters school do not volunteer, nor master English, nor assimilate in our country…the communities in these areas in Houston are poor, elevated crime, but most of all they are not Americans. We do not have the ability to round everyone up and send them back. Yes, I have know many Hispanics that have followed the rules…but reality is the culture is not incline to do this…and yes there is no point in blaming ….too much to go around. Education is slipping for too many today and it is my observation that schools in the Latino communities where there is no consequences of actions perpetuate poor citizens and Yes…constant drain on the border states….I do not believe that the measures promoted will be able to be enforced ….thus continuing this mess.. I will continue to write to anyone that takes this cause on…immigration and education need to have honest and real dialogue….this issue will ultimately will cost our country.

Thank you for your article..”

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Diane Dimond January 23, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Reader Manuel Portillo writes:

“Dear Ms. Diamond,

I read your article America’s Immigration Mess: The Next Big Issue? and I wanted to write you a brief comment about the generalizations you make about the separation of immigrant families, in particular this:

>> These illegal immigrants (call them undocumented workers if it makes you feel better) knew that any day they could be caught but they proceeded to have children — the very children they complain about being separated from once the U.S. begins deportation efforts. Look, an individual’s past bad choices are not the fault of the host government. >>

Your treatment of the concept of family, one of the most sacred values in American culture, is lacking, to say the least. Not only that, it is a huge generalization that does a disservice to the American people and sets the quality of your article off.

I consider it plainly unethical.

Think about it, are those families you mention in your article the same as the families of your good neighbors, or are they different, in what respect?

If what you are looking for is reaching your audience with a measure of good-old American practicality, treating your topic with a measure of respect will go a long way.

Thank you for reading my note.

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Diane Dimond January 23, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Mr. Portillo,

I welcome all points of view here so thank you for writing, I’m pleased to post your views.

Regular readers of my weekly columns know my values and I invite you to read some of my archived pieces.

I deal in common sense. I put great weight on personal responsibility and responsibility to family. So, your attempt to paint me as the one who doesn’t value the concept of family, “the most sacred values in American culture” (as you put it) is completely misplaced.

You may consider me unethical but if you ignore the core of America’s immigration problem – that millions of outsiders broke U.S. laws and continue to break our laws every day they remain — then I would say you are blinded to facts.

Only until we stop sniping at each other will this massive problem be solved. ~ DD

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Diane Dimond January 23, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Reader Andrea writes:

“Hi My name is Andrea, U.S Citizen. What can I do to help my husband/ex-husband married an illegal Alien of Mexico for 36 years whom has the misfortune of being deported three times. Currently, incarcerated for illegal entry, i don’t want to bore you but its injustice that our family is growing with grandchildren and have to go through this dramatic time in our lives. Not being able to share and loving our grandchildren.
For my husband and I are moving up in years and have come to conclusion that we really screwed up in our young years. We took life for granted. If you can Please help or advice me of what I can do to fix or have a hear say on the immigration law. Should i contact a lawyer? Who? Write letters? but where? Thank you for your time. Sincerely, A concern U.S Citizen, Andrea

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Diane Dimond January 24, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Huffington Post Reader slinkybro writes:

“If you don’t deport people who come here illegally. all you do is encourage more people to come here illegally. Proof being the 1986 amnesty.”

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Diane Dimond January 24, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Huffington Post Reader foundelk writes:

“The government seems to think they can keep track of 290 million fire arms yet they constantly tell us they cant keep track of or find and deport 20 million Illegal Aliens ?

And that it is impossible to secure our borders?

BULL —T, Mandatory E_verify and send them home,Track Visas ,if they don’t leave when they are supposed to track them down.fix the 14th Amendment no more anchor baby’s
This is all doable and is in fact the Governments job to do it…”

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Diane Dimond January 24, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Huffington Post Reader greyhound2 writes:

” In about 1970, or about 60 years ago, the world’s population stood at about 4 billion, including China and India. Today it is over 7 billion on the way to double at 8 soon.
The US population grew from about 225 million to over 300 million today, mostly from an invasion from the third world. All of these people cannot be supported by the US welfare system, unless bankruptcy looks like a good idea to you.

Once they get in, they become your problem. We need a bigger fence and no, surrender is not an option to “we’re here, deal with it”. Mandatory and enforced e-verify and put the shoe on the other foot.”

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Diane Dimond January 24, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Huffington Post Reader Musti00 writes:

“This pple are nt risking their lives over here just to depent on the government.they are here to work.they are hard workers.go ask yr grand parents.yr forefathers also came here illegally except if u are a native of America .if u are scared they are going to take yr job then u got no job.”

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Diane Dimond January 24, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Mustioo-

My grandparents and their parents did NOT come to America illegally. They came during the potato famine in Ireland – up through Nova Scotia and down into North Dakota. They did it legally and with great suffering attached. ~ DD

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Diane Dimond January 24, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Huffington Post Reader DFrancis writes:

“Birthrights Citizenship is under constant bombardment by activists who believe an amendment to the 14th Amendment will save ultimately TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS.

Citizenship given to children upon arrival is skyrocketing in free baby deliveries, free health care for all family members, and free education for all the children born now and later. Only the American citizens can financially reprieve us from this constant threat of females smuggling in their unborn and the U.S. Taxpayer carry the financial burden—without end. Then once the child applies automatic citizenship, it’s hard to return the Mother to the country where she belongs. It’s like a wordless guidebook of how to beat the welfare and immigration system, which eventually leaves to ILLEGAL CHAIN MIGRATION of the extended family. After more pregnancies the mother can collect substantial amounts of money for each child, plus low income housing. Then once settled, more relatives vanquish the border or alight undetected from a plane, this one way visitor, moves in with the family already here, finds a job and vanishes.

It goes without say the door should always remain open for STEM workers, who have professional and skilled credentials? But even the most developed nations in the world cannot continue, if at all—to keep supporting other countries poor migrants and immigrants..There is obvious justification for a GUEST WORKER program, but currently it is run disorganized and full of fraudulent activities. AGJobs must be regulated and when contracts expire the labor must return home.”

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Diane Dimond January 24, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Huffington Post Reader Glitter state writes:

“I do agree with a lot of this, but what jobs are they stealing from us Americans? I live in an area surrounded by agricultural fields. When I pass by these fields I can honestly say that 99% of the employees are of some Hispanic descent. The only Caucasian people are the men who deliver direction or provide a small tub of Gatorade to the hard-working people slaving away through the heat.

Although, there are some places where undocumented workers are finding very desirable jobs, I’m sure that’s only on occasion. Tell me that an unemployed man or house mom would be EAGER to take the agricultural jobs if they were provided! I would love to see that…

If we have spent millions on a war in the middle east, why don’t we walk across our own border and provide assistance to an ally? People in America believe that these immigrants “want” to come to our country because it is so WONDERFUL! When really they are attempting to find a better life for their children and provide money for them, I’m sure they would rather be in their HOME country with their families. It is wrong, illegal, and troublesome, but tell me you wouldn’t do the same if America was not in the same condition it is in now.
We also need to work on how we refer to these people, our children are learning our bad habits!”

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Diane Dimond January 24, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Huffington Post Reader besswhite writes:

“Help Mexico. Send troops. The poor people are banding together to fight against drug gangs. Why dont we help them? Make the country where the folks want to stay there.”

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Diane Dimond January 24, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Dear Bess White:

We can’t go in and “help” a nation that hasn’t asked for our help.
For many reasons (politics, corruption, machismo) the various Presidents of Mexico have never fully embraced America coming in with troops, jobs training, etc. …
Of course, I also can’t say that a U.S. President has offered any concrete programs either. ~ DD

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Diane Dimond January 24, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Huffington Post reader nothingchanges writes:

“I look at the illegal immigration issue as a “Pandora’s Box”

Most illegal’s came into this country during the George W. Bush administration. It sure looks to me like that administration tacitly approved of that practice because it flooded the marketplace with “cheap” labor, and that made a LOT of money for some businesses.

NOW there may be no GOOD solution to the problem.

It’s not fair that those who obeyed the laws and tried to immigrate legally are facing denial because of our current immigration difficulties.

It’s not fair for the children of existing illegals to be made to pay for the actions of their parents.

It’s also not fair to punish illegal immigrants for wanting so desperately to improve their lives, while doing nothing to those unscrupulous business men who exploited them for cheap labor.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The BEST solution, was to never have let the problem happen in the first place.

Personal opinions, you are entitled to your own.”

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Diane Dimond January 24, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Huffington Post Reader Brobdingnag writes:

“nice analogy–rule by mob. Politicians of both parties are now catering to the mob and unless the citizens demand that we be the priority they will simply answer to an ethnic voting bloc presumed to oppose any enforcement of laws which limit immigration.”

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Diane Dimond January 24, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Huffington Post Reader Hagia writes:

” No more people. Resources, jobs, and patience is in short supply.”

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Diane Dimond January 26, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Huffington Post Reader Vince Almaraz writes:

“No solution is worth a darn if you don’t stop this from happening again. Our politicians are absolute failures. This is one of the many reasons that people don’t trust their government.”

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Diane Dimond January 26, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Huffington Post Reader mactheknight writes:

“You seem to make some points about the value of all these fine people, and I’ve worked with a few of them, without addressing the root cause…

there are reasons laws aren’t enforced, and the way illegal aliens undercut labor’s effectiveness is the most important…

illegals will work for low wages, not complain about safety, have little recourse for mistreatment, and taken jobs away from people that have supported their country for years

they are part of the “corporate process”, send jobs overseas, abuse environments, safety, and societies, all in the name of growth and profits

one person in a board room does more damage in one day, than a 1000 illegal aliens, how about we start there…?”

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