Monday, March 27, 2006


I heard Bush speak today on immigration reform. He proposes making illegal immigrants felons. He also wants to make illegal immigrants go back home before they apply for legal status. I have so many issues with these ideas that it's hard to know where to begin.

A few years ago, I worked at a small town newspaper, and I interviewed a Haitian man who needed to stay in the United States because of a death threat against his wife and children if they returned. His wife was a very outspoken radio personality who had spoken against the wrong group of people. This family was stalked and threatened continuously before they escaped to the United States. They were granted a temporary Visa, and both parents got very good jobs teaching and coaching in North Carolina. After a few years, they were told they could not stay in the United States any longer. They applied repeatedly for asylum and were not granted it. I don't know what happened to them. When I moved across country to go to graduate school, they were still caught in red tape with only a month or two before they would be deported.

As a teacher, I have had several children of migrant workers in class. All of these students came to the United States as illegal immigrants. All of their parents just wanted to make things better for their children. All of the children started working in the fields when they were very small for a very small amount of money each day. These young women (they have all been women) worked very hard in my class. They had to. They wanted a better life, too. I would take these students any day of the week, yet this country is trying to deny them the right to a better life here.

Bush is right in one thing: the current policies to deal with illegal immigrants aren't working. Too many people are dying each year trying to cross the border or in the desert after they have made it across. His proposal is to make them felons. Is he serious? Does he really think this will stop people? Does he really think making people apply for temporary work visas here will make the sweat shop owners here stop using illegal immigrants? Certainly there has to be a better way to deal with the problems with immigration in this country, but his ideas aren't it.

Perhaps he should try a compassionate approach, like punishing the sweat shop owners and not their workers to try to help the workers get ahead in this country. We are a country of immigrants, and we should be more welcoming. I don't have much in the way of ideas for solutions, but I do know wrong solutions when I see them.

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