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Communities stepping in to fill federal void on immigration
Scripps Howard News Service


July 17, 2006

Once again, local politicians are proving that when the miasmic brume we call Washington fails to provide responsible national leadership, local leaders will jump in to fill the void.

Hazelton, Pa., is not the first town to do so, but on Friday its mayor signed into law one of the toughest city ordinances in the nation designed to diminish the costs of illegal immigration. It punishes people who do business with illegal immigrants, as well as those who hire them and even those who provide them with housing.

On the other coast, the North County Times reports that the California town of Vista passed an ordinance, due to take effect on July 28, that "will require those who hire off-site day laborers to register with the city, display a certificate in their car windows, and present written terms of employment to workers. Critics have called it a transparent attempt to eliminate hiring sites for day laborers."

These are not isolated events. Similar laws are sprouting up nationwide. The two I've mentioned are just the latest and among the toughest, as localities from sea to shining sea lash back against congressional and presidential impotence on this front. The longer Congress dallies and the more President Bush embraces his obviously failed guest-worker program (read: amnesty for all illegals), the tougher such local measures will become. In fact, it could be argued that there's an inverse relationship between federal fecklessness and local backlashes against illegal immigration.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, in 2006, 500 pieces of immigration-related legislation have been introduced in state legislatures. All are aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration and sparing localities the cost of support services for illegal immigrants, such as public education, public health and public finance.

Perhaps the best example of "we're mad as hell and we're not going to pay for it anymore" comes from a package of bills introduced by Pennsylvania lawmakers. They would bar public spending on services or benefits for illegal immigrants.

Americans are a sympathetic bunch. But despite the pro-immigration lobby's efforts to portray mass immigration as a financial plus for native-born Americans, we know better. Illegal immigrants' presence is a financial plus for employers, who get to pocket more in profits by paying illegal immigrants less than they pay American workers. Their presence is a financial plus for their native countries, which no longer need to try to feed and employ excess populations. Their presence is a financial plus for churches, whose pews they fill and into whose plates they pass small donations.

But it is not a plus for the average taxpaying American. And Americans are catching on.

Americans do not dislike immigrants personally, whether legal or illegal. We recognize that most of them are hardworking, nice people with the best of intentions. Our empathy goes to those who had the misfortune of being born in countries that cannot properly house, clothe, feed or employ them. We understand why they flock here - for a piece of American-style prosperity.

We're happy to share with them when there is mutual benefit. But now that it's beyond doubt that they are driving down wages (particularly among low-income Americans), overcrowding public schools and clogging an overburdened public hospital system, we know it's time to say, "Enough."

This economic revolt will only become more shrill as Americans catch on to yet another product of mass legal and illegal immigration: environmental destruction wreaked by too many people in too small a land.

Yes, Bush is starting to "get it" on this issue. He recently signaled to House Republicans that he'll be happy to consider enforcing border security before pressing on with his quest for amnesty. But that's not enough. We will know the federal government has begun to act responsibly when Hazelton, Pa., and Vista, Calif., no longer feel the need to jump in.


Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service.
E-mail bonnieerbe(at)
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Scripps Howard News Service.

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