Editorial: Pain should be illegals’, not Arizona’s

If you’ve been paying attention to the national news lately, you may be aware of the ruckus caused by a controversial new law passed in Arizona a couple of weeks ago that cracks down on illegal immigration.

The law basically aims to identify, prosecute and deport illegal aliens.

Both proponents and critics say it is the broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations, would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and would give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. It requires local law enforcement officers during the course of a “lawful stop, detention or arrest” to ask for proof of citizenship or legal immigration status and turn those without it over to federal authorities for deportation.

The law has drawn a storm of protest from critics who have denounced it as “mean-spirited,” “retrogressive” and “essentially a license to pull someone over for being Hispanic,” who say it will increase racial profiling and create all sorts of human rights abuses. Opponents have called it an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics, regardless of their citizenship status.

Backlash has included a variety of legal challenges, campaigns to boycott Arizona products and travel to the state, and a ban by Mexico on student exchange programs with Arizona schools. The Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs did just that last week, essentially calling on state residents to boycott Arizona companies.

That response, in itself, is evidence of how the concern for civil rights has gotten to the point of ridiculousness. If the United States had cracked down on this problem before it became a large one, the pain caused by enforcement of this law would be a lot less than it is going to be.

Before we go any further, I want to emphasize that the problem I’m talking about here is people who break the law in entering the United States and by staying here illegally. I am not talking about legal immigrants. Most of us are, or are descendants of, people who immigrated the right way.

In Sweet Home we have a number of perfectly legal immigrants of a wide variety of hues who contribute a great deal to our community and should be greatly appreciated because of it.

But the Arizona law is right €“ painful though it may be. I am certainly not at all sympathetic to racial profiling and other problems that may result from enforcement of the law, but what its critics have forgotten or ignored is that Arizona €“ and California, Texas, Oregon and many other states €“ have been paying the price of illegal immigration for years.

It’s a major problem, and to continue to deny it is simply sticking our heads in the sand.

A recent Rasmussen poll found that 70 percent of likely voters in Arizona approve of this law. There’s a reason: They want something done about illegal immigration and pathetically little has been done by the federal government, which has the responsibility for protecting our national borders.

The backlash should be no real surprise to Arizonans, but it doesn’t seem to be stopping other states that are also sick of dealing with the illegal immigration problem on top of everything else on our plate.

According to the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, 12 other states €“ Arkansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Utah €“ have legislators who are already pushing or considering drafting legislation similar to the Arizona law.

Immigration is a joke in the United States to everyone except those who try to do it legally. Frustration over the problem, and the federal government’s abysmal lack of effort in stemming the flow of illegals, has led to the creation of the Minuteman movement and other civilian militias, who have decided to take border security into their own hands.

Since the 1990s, illegal immigrants have outnumbered those who enter the country legally. Three-quarters of illegals entering the United States do so from Latin America, but a sizeable number enter from Asia and Europe, according to Pew Hispanic Center estimates. According to the on-line magazine YaleGlobal, the total number of immigrants, instead of diminishing, has actually increased since the 1994 launching of Operation Gatekeeper with an annual budget of $2 billion to strengthen America’s border control.

There are, of course, some ways illegal immigration benefits the U.S. Otherwise it would not be tolerated.

Many businesses profit by hiring illegal workers €“ often at lower wages and with fewer benefits than a legal resident would get.

Illegal immigrants are almost invariably people with ambition and drive. Anyone with the guts to brave the Mexican desert or with the brains to beat the system has something to offer that would be of value to someone, especially employers looking for people willing to do tough, undesirable jobs for low pay.

I have known illegal immigrants personally and many of them were great people €“ who would truly be an asset to society if they were here legally.

The downside of illegal immigration, though, is that we all pay for it. Illegal immigrants compete with other Americans for jobs. In some cases, they pose national security risks.

Our nation spends millions each year to provide medical care and welfare benefits for, translate for, educate, prosecute,

incarcerate and rehabilitate illegal immigrants €“ a price that we pay. Yes, illegal residents do sometimes pay taxes and Social Security, but many do not.

Our nation’s concern for the downtrodden and “civil rights” is problematic enough, given the fact that it is manifesting itself more and more in outright socialism and so-called “political correctness.” The problem posed by illegal immigration is that while legal citizens are forced to pay for those who are not even supposed to be within our borders may be kindness to those who benefit, but it’s criminal to the rest of us.

After letting this problem fester for decades, there unfortunately will likely be problems caused by a serious attempt to crack down on illegal immigrants. There will be heart-rending situations. There will be unfairness. People who have lived here for years and contributed substantially to the common good may end up facing bitter consequences. Banks that have tapped into the illegal immigrant community to make housing loans and provide other services might find themselves up a creek.

But it’s the right thing to do. And instead of denouncing it, as the Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs did last week with what amounted to a call to boycott Arizona companies, our cash-strapped state, with its 12-percent unemployment rate,

should be thinking about how it can right our own ship by dealing with our own illegal immigrants.

Oregonians would be wise to consider the first-hand view of one of their own gubernatorial candidates, John Lim, who came to America from South Korea through the legal process, and as a first-generation American, served in the state Senate and the House before running for Governor. Lim, by the way, has stated that he supports of the Arizona law.

I personally have been an “alien.” I lived for nearly nine years as a youngster in Japan, which has an advantage that the United States does not €“ it’s an island, which gives it a better chance of securing its borders. In Japan, though, I had to carry an alien registration card once I had reached my mid-teens.

I, along with my brothers and sisters were among the only white kids in our city. We stood out, but the cops never asked me for my registration. But if they had, I would have been legal. It really wasn’t that painful and I really couldn’t complain. Afer all, I wasn’t a citizen.

And if the U.S. had enforced its own laws, this Arizona situation wouldn’t be particularly painful either, or even necessary.

As mentioned already, very few of us are not immigrants or descended from one. We or our forebears crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, at one point or another and negotiated the hoops necessary to live here legally and, in many cases, become citizens of the United States.

That is doing it the right way.

Despite the rulings of judges who are misled or worse, our Constitution does not provide for illegal aliens and neither should our state’s or our nation’s public policy.

Our Constitution only provides for people who are in the United States legally, and that’s the point of Arizona’s law.