Immigration policy needs an overhaul

Jan. 11, 2006, midnight | By Natasha Prados | 18 years, 3 months ago

Discrimination is turning into a national pastime

In an attempt to limit overcrowding, a zoning ordinance passed Dec. 29 requires Manassas, Virginia residents to live only with immediate family members. After being widely criticized as discriminatory, the ordinance was suspended, according to a Jan. 5 article in The Washington Post. That such a law was passed in the first place is evidence of an emerging pattern of growing prejudice towards immigrants, a pattern perpetuated by current immigration policy.

The law stemmed from growing concern over illegal immigration and problems associated with immigrants, which include parking, social services and education budgets, stated Vice Mayor Harry "Hal" Parrish, in another Washington Post article.

If enforced, the zoning ordinance will primarily affect Latino residents, according to the article. Such targeting is unjust and borders on racism. The policy may also be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court struck down a similar ordinance in a 1977 ruling on the basis that it violated 14th Amendment protection of family and privacy, according to The Washington Post article Manassas Ordinance raises cries of Bigotry.

This negative attitude towards immigrants is not just local; the trend is reflected in national immigration policy. President Bush's "Strategy for Comprehensive Immigration Reform" is far from courteous, and for no gain.

President Bush's policy is not effective against illegal immigration — 500,000 illegal immigrants enter the U.S. annually, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

Illegal immigrants risk their lives daily crossing the border with Mexico (282 dead bodies have been recovered this year alone, according to a Jan. 5 article in The Independent. The president's plan fails to recognize that these desperate souls will not be deterred by more patrols, funding or technology.

The only part of President Bush's plan which welcomes immigrants is the Temporary Workers Program. Bush says his plan will match willing foreign workers with American employers in order to fill jobs that "no American is willing to take." This proposal will exploit the cheap labor of desperate foreigners.

Persons helping illegal immigrants are also becoming a target for hostility. The New York Times reported on Dec. 30 that the House of Representatives passed a bill with a measure making it illegal to offer services and assistance to illegal aliens.

If the bill were to become law, offenders could potentially include priests, nuns, social workers and even spouses and colleagues of illegal immigrants. Such offenders would face up to five years in prison and possible seizure of personal assets. The House passing a bill that would turn some of America's best nonprofit organizations and humanitarians into federal criminals is ludicrous.

Mexican President Vicente Fox criticized the bill as a shameful way to treat a neighboring country. He is absolutely right: the United States' treatment of Mexicans, and Spanish speaking immigrants in general, purveys racism.

English is the official language in 23 states, a symbolic attack on the huge influx of Spanish speakers. Mexico accounts for 31 percent of all immigrants, and combined with Central America, South America and the Caribbean, this accounts for 54 percent of the foreign-born living in the U.S., according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

Latinos, particularly Mexicans, also compose nearly all illegal immigrants, who are already ineligible for practically all federal and state benefits, including food stamps and Supplemental Security income, according to The Close Up Foundation.

Turning away the needy simply because they lack legal papers is an outrageous crime of humanity. Whatever happened to feeding the poor and housing the sick?

The Center for Immigration Studies reports that the poverty rate for all immigrants and their U.S. born children is 57 percent higher than for natives and their children, meaning immigrants account for one in four of the impoverished. One third of all immigrants lack health insurance.

The lives of immigrants are difficult enough. Instead of discriminating against immigrants, the Bush administration should be assisting them.

Immigration built America. This country's unique culture has emerged from the diversity of its population. Immigration strengthens democracy and enriches life.

Although illegal immigrants have come in to the United States unlawfully, most do so in search of a better life.

America should take the tired, the poor, the huddled masses under its wing. These immigrants should be treated with respect. They should be fed, clothed, educated and accepted, not belittled and harassed by a government supposedly dedicated to liberty.

Natasha Prados. More »

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