Coming to grips with our broken
By Mike Harpold
June 24, 2006
Tom Proebsting's article, Crackdown on Illegal Immigrants, Sitnews,
6/22/06, underscores why it is so hard for Americans to come
to grips with our broken borders. With 12 million illegal aliens
living amidst our population of 300 million, chances are we all
know one or two, and we like them.
One night thirty years ago over a few beers, a young Washington
Post reporter (I was young then too) told me, "You guys
are patsies. If it's four in the afternoon and I need a story
to meet a six pm deadline, all I have to do is go into your office.
There are fifty stories sitting right there in your hallways
and any one of them would make my editors happy." He was
referring to the Washington, D.C. field office of the Immigration
and Naturalization Service, and the horde of people who gathered,
or were gathered there daily, awaiting deportation, seeking to
stay in the U.S. a little longer, or trying to bring a relative
to the U.S.
But my friend, Christopher Dickey, was a better journalist than
that. One day he saw the word, Intipuca scribbled on the wall
of a detention cell. Inquiring, he found that it was the name
of a city in El Salvador, and that a major part of it's population
was in Washington, D.C. working as bus boys, waiters and janitors.
He convinced his editors to send him to Intipuca and found, though
Washingtonians were unaware of it, Intipucans considered Washington,
D.C. to be their sister city. What followed was a six part series
describing the intertwining of the economies of both cities,
how Intipucans found their way to the U.S., and the social effects
of their absence from Intipuca. It was good journalism, illuminating
for readers, at a time when there was far less awareness of the
issue, the causes and consequences of illegal immigration. Chris
continued to get recognition for his journalism throughout his
career and today he is Mideast Bureau Chief for Newsweek magazine.
But not so with Mr. Proebsting,
who even borrows for his human interest angle the story of a
Mexican alien under deportation proceedings from the New York
Times. Mr. Proebsting needs to look a lot deeper. No, you can't
hate an illegal alien who often has come here enduring great
hardship to secure a better way of life. But our natural sympathy
for such a person should not shield us from our obligation to
look closely at the problems caused by our open borders and our
failure to enforce our immigration laws. Sustaining an orderly,
humanitarian and useful flow of new immigrants into our country
in the future is already at risk by our failure to do so.
It is the editorial page of
the Times itself this week that highlights a second reason why
an honest discussion about illegal immigration is so difficult.
In an editorial covering five pages in the web version of the
Times which has run all week, The Terrible, Horrible, Urgent
National Disaster That Immigration Isn't, editorial board member
Lawrence Downes sets out to deconstruct every argument made for
securing our borders and labels those who raise them xenophobes.
It is the playground equivalent of attempting to win an argument
by calling your opponent names.
"Many of those who favor
a get-tough approach to immigration do not like having their
arguments mocked and their tolerance questioned." he writes.
"They hate being dumped into the loony bin with Colonel
Custer, the the Know-Nothings and the the Ku Klux Klan."
"That is understandable. But xenophobia is not restricted
to a fringe element within the anti-immigration movement. Panicky
arguments about the dangers of immigration have been made by
supposedly responsible people - including members of the United
States House and Senate, and state, county and local officials
around the country."
I would be the first to concede
that there are a lot of scary people crawling out of the woodwork
and being heard on this issue. The press, including the New York
Times, does no one a service by reporting their rants instead
of focusing on the legitimate arguments for enforcing our borders
and our laws advanced by responsible, insightful people and the
sizable portion of our countrymen who are adversely affected
by our failure to enforce immigration laws. Nor does it help
when the foremost newspaper in the country seeks to end the argument
by calling those who disagree with their editorial view xenophobes.
Mr. Downes views illegal immigration
as an economic issue that it is good for the economy and therefore
is not a problem and should be tolerated. I believe that those
who proffer such arguments believe that through free trade we
have transcended our nation status and exist as a free-floating,
formless vapor, where people flow from one continent to another
existing not in any society nor owing allegiance to any nation,
but answering only to the economic needs of the world market.
Under this scenario, and it pretty well describes the present
reality, borders are an anachronism. To bring this back to Mr.
Proebsting, the Beltway crowd already believe this, and that
is why there is such a huge disconnect between Washington, D.C.
and the rest of the country on this issue. People who work for
a living aren't buying it.
The NY Times would have done better to devote its five pages
to a summary of what's in the 796 pages of new law the Senate
proposes to add to the Immigration and Nationality Act. The entire
existing INA as printed by West and including editorial notes
and references is only 479 pages. Or it could do some good investigative
coverage of why our elected leaders have failed to enforce our
laws and caused this mess in the first place. Maybe it could
foster a real discussion about the downside of extending free
trade policies to people's labor, not just the trade in goods.
And it could start by according people who honestly argue that
such policies are harmful some dignity.
Ketchikan, AK - USA
About: The author lives in Ketchikan and is retired after a 35
year career in the INS.
on Illegal Immigrants By Tom Proebsting - Moberly, MO - USA
Note: Comments published
on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.
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