Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses...

As normally happens while pondering a topic to write about, my thoughts about immigration have changed several times, and will probably flip flop around some more as the days go by.

At first, like most Americans, my reaction was, "The hell with them! They're illegal and they need to be sent home!"

After all, if you entered this country illegally you deserve to be sent home with your tail between your legs. Rode out of the country on a rail. Thrown in jail. Strapped to an ant hill with honey on your butt! Right?

This is not such a cut and dried topic though the more I think about the variables that come into play on this issue. Let me first tell you of my current position, then I will go into what I think needs to happen in the future.

When I heard about people protesting in the streets and carrying Mexican flags I was pissed off. I also get mad when I hear we are bending over backwards to change everything in this country to the Spanish language, and forcing our schools to lean toward Mexican immigrants in their teachings.

Point blank, I agree with Theodore Roosevelt when he said,

"In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, birthplace or origin. But this is predicated upon the man's becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American. There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile. We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language. And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."

Or Henry Cabot Lodge,

"...Let every man honor and love the land of his birth and the race from which he springs and keep their memory green. It is a pious and honorable duty. But let us have done with British-Americans and Irish-Americans and so on, and all be Americans - nothing more and nothing less. If a man is going to be an American at all let him be so without any qualifying adjectives, and if he is going to be something else, let him drop the word American from his personal description."

As I watched the recent demonstrations with everyone wearing white to symbolize peace, and with the overwhelming majority of the flags now being waved being American, I felt proud to be an American. These people are demonstrating that they are not here just to infiltrate this country, many of them truly want to become Americans.

It's difficult to see immigrants, illegal or otherwise, waving the American flag and literally screaming to this country that they want to become Americans. How can we not embrace a people who are doing what Americans have been doing since this country was founded? They want a better life for themselves and their families. Like those immigrants who have come before them, they see that better life in America.

The problem now becomes how do we proceed with our current dilemma? We've certainly got a whopper.

Here is what I think should happen if I were king.

First, and foremost, we need to seal our borders once and for all. This is not just to keep people from immigrating to our country, but we absolutely need to prevent criminals of all manner from entering. I don't care if we build a wall, lay land mines, or create a moat of rabid gerbils, it has to be done, done now, and done right.

Second, as much as everyone hates this thought, we need to somehow allow those people who are currently here now to integrate into our country. The music has stopped, they all have a chair to sit in, the game is over. Is it fair to others who have waited in line? No, but it's a harsh world.

Don't get me wrong, these people should not be completely off the hook.

Once we recognize them as immigrants they need to take courses to learn English, and should have to pass the same test as anyone who wishes to become a citizen in this country. I don't even care if the government pays to educate them. The caveat will be that their educational focus will be English, and no other direction. You learn our way, or it's the highway!

Third, it's time for the employers to start supporting this country as well. No more looking the other way. You hire a person who has entered this country illegally, and it can be proved in court that you did this knowingly, your heading to jail on a Federal charge and your business becomes the property of the government to sell so they can pay the cost to imprison you. The penalties must be severe enough to make these folks think long and hard about hiring illegals.

Finally, after all of this hand-holding, compromising, expense and hard work to Americanize these recent visitors, if you are becoming a new citizen of this country you should have a probation period where you had better keep your nose clean and not commit any crimes or you're out of here! If you are booted from the country for committing a crime, you NEVER get to return, not even to go to Disneyland or visit Mom. We see you again, and you're in jail for a very long time.

This country can be compassionate, but we need to be hard when required.

The Statue of Liberty has inscribed on it the following poem of which most people in this country seem to have forgotten.

The New Colossus
by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!"” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”