04 October 2011 ~ 1 Comentario

On immigration, follow Reagan’s example

by Carlos Alberto Montaner

Ronald Reagan

(THE MIAMI HERALD) One of the most popular sports in the United States is to mortify illegal immigrants. It attracts votes. The purpose is to torment them until they return to their countries of origin. Politicians don’t issue them drivers’ licenses, prevent them from renting homes and try to deny them access to work or studies. They want to defeat them and starve them into leaving.

It’s not that politicians are sadists. They have perceived that, by and large, society wants to evict undocumented foreigners and have stepped forward to lead the hunt. Sen. John McCain, who some years ago, along with Ted Kennedy, proposed a sensible immigration reform bill, today has joined the hardliners in order to survive in this climate of xenophobia made worse by the economic crisis and the increase in joblessness.

This isn’t the first time. After the 1929 crisis, during the Herbert Hoover administration, the same thing happened and a couple of million people, almost all Mexican, were expelled with extreme harshness. As happens today, thousands of bicultural Americans who spoke no Spanish ended up in exile in Mexico, a country that was completely foreign to many of them.

On the other side of the Atlantic about that time, Adolf Hitler was rising to power in Germany and wasted no time issuing the first anti-Semitic laws. Hitler’s "logic" was that Jews were undesirable foreigners, even if they had lived in Germany for ten generations and were totally Germanized. Beginning in 1935, Jews could no longer own property, run businesses, practice certain professions or study in the same centers with "genuine" Germans. They couldn’t marry or have sexual relations with the "Aryans." The Nazis wanted to make life terribly uncomfortable for the Jews so they would go away. Eventually, they decided to exterminate those who had not escaped in time.

To mortify the undocumented, aside from being a crime, makes no sense. Much more reasonable is to issue a sort of amnesty, as Ronald Reagan did, so the "irregular" immigrants who have not committed crimes may legitimize their presence, pay taxes, comply with the rules set by law and, after the required length of time, become citizens. It’s in everyone’s best interest for that to happen.

Naturally, after the amnesty, a date must be set after which nobody may hire a person who lacks legal residence and a work permit, under penalty of a heavy fine, which undoubtedly will prevent an avalanche of illegals. That’s what Switzerland does, with great success.

The argument that, while certain people obey the rules, the United States cannot reward the criminal conduct of those who violate the immigration laws runs headlong into the nation’s legal tradition. If the nation’s legal structure contemplates amnesty, pardon or others type of benign redemption, that means the country can and should use these legal recourses when circumstances demand it. Who said that compassion does not fit in the rule of law?

Since 1966, for special reasons, at least one group of foreigners, people of Cuban origin, can request and obtain residence after one year’s stay in the United States if they entered the country legally, even as tourists. That has allowed this community, which never created marginal ghettos even though most Cubans live in a poor city (Miami), to achieve a level of economic performance, education and obedience to the law similar to that of the American middle class.

In addition, that legislation has paved the way for integrating Cubans into the U.S. mainstream at an exceptionally high level. If today the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, is a woman born in Cuba, or if the president of a major U.S. college is another Cuban, Dr. Eduardo Padrón, it is because the politicians who half a century ago faced the problem presented by those irregular immigrants (which is what they were at the time) did not set out to mortify them so they would leave, but instead built bridges so they could integrate.

That’s the intelligent thing to do. That’s what’s expected from a compassionate society that swears it upholds Christian values.

One Response to “On immigration, follow Reagan’s example”

  1. Gustavo Rivera 8 October 2011 at 4:02 pm Permalink

    Muy bien dicho Sr. Monatener. A lo largo de la historia de nuestro país, nuestros intereses han sido mejor servidos cuando hemos acogió con beneplácito y ayudado a integrar a los inmigrantes en el tejido de nuestra sociedad. Tenemos que tener en cuenta que este es un país fundado por inmigrantes, muchos de los cuales fueron perseguidos en su país de origen, y que irónicamente, perentoriamente se entregaron los derechos a una tierra que no era “reclamada” por sus ocupantes originales. Vamos a mantener esto en mente y recordarnos de defender el valor cristiano de la compasión hacia nuestros hermanos.

    (Well said Mr. Monatener. Throughout the history of our country, our interests have been better served when we have welcomed and helped to integrate immigrants into the fabric of our society. Let us keep in mind that this is a country founded by immigrants, many of which were persecuted in their country of origin, and which ironically, peremptorily gave themselves rights to a land not “claimed” by their original occupants. Let’s keep this in mind, and as you so well remind us, to uphold the Christian value of compassion for our brethren.)

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