Immigration reform

by Beacon Staff • April 12, 2006

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers, under political pressure, have decided to draft new laws to alleviate a problem. But legislation isn't the remedy.,For the first time in 10 years, the U.S. government has finally recognized the importance of immigration reform.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers, under political pressure, have decided to draft new laws to alleviate a problem. But legislation isn't the remedy.

In fact, fresh laws would offer only temporary relief to the symptoms of illegal immigration rather than directly addressing the problem emanating from Latin and Central American countries.

Without a doubt, lawmakers have ignored the issue for too long, and what we are now witnessing is the result of years of neglect.

Larry Birns, director of the Council of Hemispheric Affairs, a group that monitors U.S. relations with Latin American countries, says lawmakers "are coming up with a solution that postpones the problem for a future generation to deal with."

Another point of view comes from an insider who worked closely with the Mexican government.

Fredo Arias-King, a former speechwriter for Mexican President Vicente Fox, says that during Fox's reign, "Corruption [had] actually increased and the quality of government deteriorated."

He also estimated that "Mexican illegal immigration to the US under Fox [had] actually increased and [was] likely to continue at the present level for at least 20 years more."

Even more troubling: statements made by Ernesto Zedillo, the former Mexican president (1994-2000). In a recent Forbes magazine article, he said citizens in Latin American countries "spend their lives worrying about security and crime . burdened by corruption and aggrieved by the power of special interest groups."

Unlike American politicians, King and Zedillo recognize that corruption is the main ingredient that impedes progress in the Western Hemisphere.

Furthermore, a number of misconceptions and myths remain about the role of illegal immigrants in our workforce. For instance, take the one-sided story that they do the jobs Americans don't want, a notion that has some merit but is not entirely true.

Paul Krugman of The New York Times demystifies that argument: "The willingness of Americans to do a job depends on how much the job pays and the reason some jobs pay too little to attract native-born Americans is competition from poorly paid immigrants," he writes.

Krugman is right, and he is again when he further declares that less-educated Mexican immigrants can increase the supply of less-skilled labor, affecting the wages of the lowest-paid Americans.

The immigration problem is not just about economics and work. It's also about security and criminal activity.

Another problem caused by illegal immigration has been the return of the violent gang epidemic across the country.

This caught the attention of Chris Swecker, an FBI official who testified before a House Committee in April of 2005. He said the problem was not new, since "major urban areas such as Chicago and New York have also experienced major gang activity associated with Latino gangs for decades."

Another research analyst on Latin American Affairs, Kellen Ano, who works out of California, says legal sanctions would not solve the problem of gangs. She argues that organized gang members "are intelligent and operate within organized structures," making law enforcement difficult.

The time has come for illegal immigration to be placed on the front burner so the situations that gave rise to the problem can be examined in their proper context.

It would be an irresponsible act for politicians to merely apply cosmetics to the problem, only offering short-term benefits to a real threat confronting America.

For a solution to be found, it has to be participatory in the sense that illegal immigrants themselves must recognize that their role must go beyond demonstrations and street rallies.

They can begin the process right now with a clarion call that demands the practice of fair and open government in their home countries. Such a move would indeed ensure brighter horizons for future generations.