Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Immigration - Law, Security, Economy, Taxes

Our immigration laws and policies are badly outdated. For years, national and state administrations looked the other way and selectively enforced the immigration laws currently on the books. Our immigration laws hail from a time when travel was more difficult. Very few folks braved the dangerous desert crossings into the land of the free. Nowadays, even with gas at $2.50+ per gallon, travel overland and even cross country, is ‘a breeze’. As a result we have basically said to any potential Hispanic immigrant, “Come on in.”

Things need to change. The status quo is unacceptable. The system is broken and something needs to be done.

I’m proud that we are a country founded on immigrants. I hope and expect that to continue. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

I welcome all immigrants who wish to come to my country, seeking to seize opportunity and freedom so as to better their lives, and in return better my country. Better our country.

But amigos, you are breaking my country. Every one of you that is here illegally, is an unplanned burden on our government services. Since you are not a citizen, you do not pay the income taxes that fund our hospitals, our community support services and even our schools to some extent. Yes, you pay sales taxes and such, but because you are not paying your equal share, that burden is shifted to the legal citizens. As a result, you are receiving a partial scholarship to work and live here. Our tax code, a tool used by our politicians to reward/punish constituencies, assumes that only legal citizens reside and work in this country. You do not equally share this burden.

And when you bring your families with you, you tax our resources for learning. Your children are behind the curve when it comes to learning the English language. And who can they turn to for homework assistance when they leave school? Certainly not their ‘No hablo ingles’ parents. As your kids fall behind, they begin to lose momentum and are likely to drop out. And if they don’t drop out, they become dead weight in our classrooms, due mainly to their lack of proficiency in English. (Personally, I’m doing what I can there on that issue)

I see Hispanic immigrants everyday, working hard building houses, landscaping property, working on farms, opening restaurants & businesses. They are earning a living and providing a better life for their families, all the while making it more difficult for the rest of us. But without them, the building process would be lengthened, and crops would be much harder to get to market. The labor market would be in short supply and prices would rise as the cost of hiring scarce manpower elevates.

Illegal immigrants - sorry, they’re not all “undocumented workers” - do fill unmet manpower needs. I know of perfectly capable and well educated individuals who willingly stay on unemployment because the jobs that are available or offered are beneath them. I hear from my rural friends of the seasonal migration to the fields. And in many cases they work with more motivation than our pampered and coddled potential collegians.

Lately, I’ve seen the demonstrations around town and the country. One illegal on TV said "they want to treat us like criminals." Newsflash - you ARE here illegally. That DOES make you a criminal. Period. You are here illegally you’ve broken the law. Protests like those we’ve seen recently turn America against your cause. And so does waiving the various flags of your mother country. It’s as if you want to be here but you came only for the money. (Not that it should be any different than my friends and neighbors proudly sporting flags of their Scottish heritage.

Meanwhile, we are just as responsible for this mess. We should change the tax policies to something like the fair tax and everyone would be taxed, regardless of their citizenship status. We need to know who is in our country. That requires closing the border to not allow uninvited guests. Not only to prevent illegal immigrants, but mainly to prevent an easy repeat of Sept. 11. We need to come up with an easier way for foreigners to register, be vetted and come to our country for work.

We can’t do it all overnight. Georgia is working on it’s own immigration bill. It’s not perfect but it’s a start. The portion of the bill which affects private employers does not kick in until 2008, which means the first enforcement could not take place until 2009. Employers would be required to keep documents indicating an employee is legally in the country if the employer claims an employee's wages as a state income tax deduction… one goal is to pressure the federal government to deal with the issue. They blame the federal government for failing to enforce the borders or laws that were set up more than a decade back to crack down on immigrants who unlawfully entered the country.

"All this does is create a lot of fear in a community that is simply here to work," said State Sen. Sam Zamarripa. Try being an “undocumented worker” in someplace like China, Saudi Arabia or even Mexico. I bet the illegal immigrant experience is much different from that in the US, and filled with more peril than the hyped up consequences of tighter US immigration. Kicking everyone out overnight would cause major problems within my state. Who’d fill the vacancies in the fields or on work crews? I don’t want that. I also don’t want our state to be at a disadvantage when it comes to finding labor and selling our goods.

What I do want is well thought out policies and a build up of the funding necessary to properly filter out the welcome and unwelcome visitors. I want the new policies to be easily enacted. I want businesses to register their workers with the authorities so that we know where the law abiding immigrant workers have gone. I want the tax code to be fixed to account for all kinds workers in this country, even illegals.

I don’t mind sharing my country. Our culture, language and society are always changing and will continue to do so. We’ll welcome anyone who wants to contribute to our way of life .But so much has happened too fast. Too many visitors have created huge problems for our society’s infrastructure. That is what has created such a backlash against the illegal immigrants. Please come here to work. Help make and keep our country the best in the world. Just do so legally.