I don't pretend to have the answers to US immigration dilemmas. As a lifelong Southern California resident, I understand the unresolved questions. We live just a few miles north of the US city with the most illegal immigrants.
On one hand, the schools and hospitals, courts and welfare agencies, police and fire services, are all overwhelmed by millions who pay no taxes. And yet, these millions are part of society's fabric, with families. And they're here because US employers illegally hire them for less than minimum wages, and offer no benefits whatsoever. Illegal immigrants are shamelessly and callously exploited in Southern California by corporate farms, the apparel industry and most manufacturers.
And then President Bush comes up with a plan to offend and ignore all sides, liberals and conservatives alike, and to exploit immigrants even more. The only group rewarded by and supportive of the President's Guest Worker Plan is the business community. Of course.
From the Center for American Progress....
For years, President Bush has stated the need to reform our nation’s immigration laws; something lawmakers from both sides of the aisle recognize is important. But instead of showing real leadership on the issue, Bush fails to push for real reform. Today the Senate Judiciary committee is holding a bi-partisan hearing on comprehensive immigration reform, and the administration withdrew its two witnesses, continuing their silence on the subject.
Given the need for comprehensive immigration reform and the implications for our national security, it is troubling that the Bush administration will not participate in today’s hearing. In the absence of leadership from the Bush White House, several lawmakers have put forth their own ideas and bills on immigration.
Removing all illegal immigrants is not the answer. The Center for American Progress today released "the first-ever estimate of costs associated with arresting, detaining, prosecuting and removing immigrants who have entered the United States illegally or overstayed their visas.” The report estimates the costs to be at least $206 billion over give years or $41.2 billion a year. That is more than the 2006 budget for the Department of Homeland Security and more than double the cost of our military operations in Afghanistan.
The McCain-Kennedy immigration reform bill has broad bi-partisan support. Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ) have introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill that allows for illegal immigrants who clear criminal background checks to apply for temporary work permits, and after 11 years, they could apply for full citizenship after completing other requirements. While critics like Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) attacked the bill, others have praised it as being an “orderly, human and compassionate immigration policy.”
The Cornyn-Kyl and Tancredo immigration bills fall short on realism. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and John Kyl (R-AZ) have introduced a bill that addresses “border security and interior enforcement, employer accountability, and reform that addresses temporary workers and the current illegal population.” But the bill also requires all undocumented people to sign a paper of admission to breaking the law and then leave the US before applying for legal status, leaving some to call the bill slightly past far-fetched. Rep. Tom Tancredo’s (R-CO) bill would penalize children of illegal immigrants and force hospitals to turn away patients unless they report citizenship information to the Department of Homeland Security.