Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Where are you on immigration?

Because so few of us can trace our ancestry to a walk east across the Bering Strait or a jaunt on the Mayflower, I always assume that most Americans favor open-door immigration. Certainly that preconception hasn’t been disproved by the restaurant industry and its support for the immigration bill that abracadabra’d the U.S. Senate into a Jerry Springer audience last week. Indeed, the trade strongly favors the measure’s two most controversial provisions: Allowing foreigners to work here on visitors’ visas, in significantly higher numbers, and allowing illegal aliens to stay in the country until they can turn legal. Clearly the business as a whole is ardently pro-welcome.

But individual members are a different matter, as we learned on Monday when we polled subscribers to our weekly electronic newsletter. Sentiment was running 5-to-4 against allowing the undocumented to stay here until they attain the necessary sanctions.

“What part of ILLEGAL do people not get?” wrote one anonymous respondent. “I have no problem with any person, regardless of nationality, that is here legally working and enjoying the benefits of citizenship. [But] if we allow illegal folks to stay for any reason, that will simply encourage anyone to break the laws under the assumption we will eventually grant them amnesty also.”

Nor did the writer have much sympathy for restaurateurs who see immigrants as a choice labor pool. “As for those who hire the illegal folks, that are screaming it will impact their business,” the posting continued. “I hope it does! They should be forced to hire citizens of the US and pay them accordingly.”

“Only those legally entering the country should be allowed to stay,” concluded a poster identified as L. G. Griewisch.

“I don't think Mexico would have a problem deporting me if I were there illegally,” added Stephen Karns.

Proponents of allowing the undocumented to stay here while they earn legal status—an option extended only to those here at least five years under the last version of the Senate’s bill—seemed more reasonable than impassioned.

“Our existing immigration system is out of step with the realities of American life,” posted another commentator who wished to remain anonymous. “Our economy continues to produce opportunities for low-skilled workers in important sectors of our economy such as restaurants, retail, services, construction, and tourism. Meanwhile, the pool of Americans willing and happy to fill those jobs continues to shrink as the average American worker grows older and becomes better educated.”

“If they took the chance to get here and worked at low-end jobs until they learned and worked themselves up the ladder…I say let them stay,” wrote Kenny Arone.

You can read all of the responses by clicking the NRN this Week link on the navigation bar of, then scrolling to the invitation at the bottom to view this week’s weekly e-letter. Click on the Question of the Week within the e-letter, and you’ll be able to see the comments posted to date.

Admittedly, they’re limited in number, which is the real offense to the matter. The issue is an important one, to society in general. Haven’t far more people learned about the controversy and formed an opinion?

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