Mark Steyn's Chicago Sun-Times column this week, No easy answers on immigration conundrum, is another home run. It's on immigration and how people who follow the rules are given a hard time at the same time that the system winks at millions who violate the rules.
All developed countries have immigration issues, but few conduct the entire debate as disingenuously as America does: The president himself has contributed a whole barrelful of weaselly platitudes, beginning with his line that "family values don't stop at the Rio Grande." True. They don't stop at the 49th parallel either. Or the Atlantic shore. Or the Pacific. So where do family values stop? At the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. If you're an American and you marry a Canadian or Belgian or Fijian, the U.S. government can take years to process what's supposed to be a non-discretionary immigration application, in the course of which your spouse will be dependent on various transitional-status forms like "advance parole" that leave her vulnerable to the whims of the many eccentric interpreters of U.S. immigration law at the nation's airports and land borders.
Here's another place where family values stops: The rubble of the World Trade Center. Deena Gilbey is a British subject whose late husband worked on the 84th floor: On the morning of Sept. 11, instead of fleeing, he returned to the building to help evacuate his co-workers. A few days later, Mrs. Gilbey receives a letter from the INS noting that as she's now widowed her immigration status has changed and she's obliged to leave the country along with her two children (both U.S. citizens). Think about that: Having legally admitted to the country the terrorists who killed her husband, the U.S. government's first act on having facilitated his murder is to add insult to grievous injury by serving his widow with a deportation order. Why should illegal Mexicans be the unique beneficiaries of a sentimental blather about "family values" to which U.S. immigration is otherwise notoriously antipathetic?
The major problem in the immigration issue is that current US policy treats people wildly unequally and unjustly. If illegal aliens are not deported, why should anyone be deported? Our policy now is the "whim" policy of banana republics. The guy in charge likes you, okay. If not, you're outta here. Of course, that's only for legal immigrants. If you're illegal, we haven't got time or personnel to do deportations.
State governments, like my own state of Oregon, do even worse. They don't allow checking of documents to see if they're bona fide--unless, of course, you are a legal resident or corporate entity. Then you are subject to the full rigor of the law for fraud.
My personal opinion is that we should open up immigration and allow lots more people to legally come to the US. For a number of years I lived in a country where many people want to immigrate to the US and want to live out the American dream. I'm for those people--and millions like them around the world.
I also believe that part of our nation's greatness comes from the great decades of immigration in the middle and late 19th century and the early part of the 20th century*. These immigrants added much to our nation by their hard work ethic and moral character.
But whether we open up the system to allow lots more immigrants or not, we should follow a legal process that is fair to all--not just to those who provide corporate profit (cheap labor) and political profit (votes).
*though modern immigration numbers are higher, the percentage is lower compared to the population as a whole