Robert Garrett writes in the Dallas Morning News:
While many GOP presidential hopefuls are quick to deplore illegal immigration, they should be careful, former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros warned Monday.
They risk driving Hispanic voters into Democrats’ arms for years to come, he said.
Mr. Cisneros, in an interview before he spoke to the Hispanic Scholarship Consortium in Austin, said that though the Republicans use immigration to fire up their base, they may wind up deeply angering Hispanics.
“Those who have simply focused on security at the border and not on the other humane aspects” of the immigration issue offend Hispanics, he said.
I think that’s right, and I think that Bush (supported by McCain) had the most compassionate plan of all the Republicans – at least that I have seen so far, although it was still a horrible plan. But the danger is not just in losing votes. The real danger – not security, not “taking our jobs,” not votes – is the risk that we create a permanent sub-class in this country. I would even go so far as to say a subservient class. That scares me. And it’s wrong.
I drive to Alpharetta every day, and around Atlanta during the week, and what I see are (mostly) Mexican workers involved in manual labor, gardening, cleaning, dishwashing, and all those jobs we stereotypically attribute to people with little or no education. I’ve not seen one plan yet that fully addresses this, except the merit-based immigration bill that was roundly vilified by the Democrats because it interfered with the so-called “family reunification intent” of our current immigration policies.
On compassionate grounds, family-based immigration seems to be a good thing. But practically-speaking, it doesn’t work. We have relatively uneducated Hispanic population coming to the country, getting a menial job, eventually getting green cards and citizenship, and bringing their relatively uneducated families with them. Their families, in turn, will take similar jobs – or at least that’s been my observation. In the end, what you have are millions of Hispanic laborers, restaurant workers, and more – here for the benefit of the middle and upper classes. That, to me, is a dangerous, continuous cycle of poverty. Fortunately, if the political will is there, it’s one we can fix.
My preference would be for the merit-based system. That system (which, by the way, is the norm, and is quite effective in countries like Canada andothers) would work like this. According to Michael Chertoff, the new system:
calls for most green cards to be based on a merit system that counts heavily education, employment skills and experience in the United States. “Family [ties] will come in as a tie-breaker,” Chertoff said in a White House briefing May 17.
Shouldn’t this be exactly what we want? I would even support people who are already here illegally, and who would be willing to get an education, to qualify for this program without having to leave the country. I would support more student visas for Hispanics (and other groups too, but let’s focus on them) so that they can come here and get the education they cannot get back in their own country. Since Mexico seems determined to get an immigration bill through, we could work with them to create a Mexican-funded scholarship program to achieve that end, or use some of the aid we already give them anyway to fund it. When that person gets a good job, a green card, and can provide for his or her family, let that person bring the family in. I’m all for that.
Finally, let’s get rid of the one thing that is a massive incentive to make it to this country illegally. Repeal of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
I would change it to say that at least one parent must be a citizen of the United States. The only intent of foreign-born parents who give birth here (with few exceptions) is to ensure their child has U.S. citizenship. It’s their ticket in.
We have a choice: We can drive anywhere in this country and see the latino population living in poverty conditions, or we can offer them an immigration bill with solid proposals that will offer a hand up and not a hand out. We’re spending billions on a system that keeps Hispanics at the bottom rung of society. Why not use that money effectively? What I want to see are latinos coming to this country and joining the business world in larger numbers. I would love to see them contribute to the scientific community in larger numbers. I want them to go to school, learn English, and have anything but the life I am sure the majority are living now. I don’t want this country to be in a situation where we continue to create what is quickly becoming the modern-day version of slavery. Is that a harsh comparison? I don’t know. I don’t think it is.
Do we need people to pick vegetables and wash dishes? Absolutely. I don’t believe the tripe that Americans won’t do this work. I don’t believe it for a second. When I was in my late teens and early 20’s, I did that work, and I’m as pasty white as you’ll get. And there are plenty of uneducated native born Americans who are willing to do it.
I know one thing for sure: If we don’t do something to change the family-based immigration system to a merit-based one, then in 20 years or less, we are going to be in the middle of a civil rights movement like we haven’t seen since the 60’s. I guarantee it. My guess though, is that the political parties are more interested in getting the latinos on side than they are providing any practical solutions to our shared immigration problem.