Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Immigration Issue - My Two Cents

There is a lot of debate right now about the problem of Immigration, especially in the time of terrorism. Michele Malkin has written extensively on this (here, here, here) and recently Polipundit has proposed several recommendations. Frank at Now You Know has written several posts (here and here) that put forth a first-hand perspective on the problems of Immigration from someone who lives near the Arizona border.

Being the grandaughter of two sets of immigrants (both my father's parents and my mother's came to this country in the early 1900's from Italy), I have some strong feelings about immigration policy.

The poem by Emma Lazarus on the Statue of Liberty expresses these feelings:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

This poem lyrically communicates one of the oldest and most deeply-felt American values. Most Americans, like myself, have ancestors that came to this shore seeking freedom from oppression, and a new chance at life. America has always opened her arms and welcomed them. And we are a strong and vibrant country because of it.

The recent introduction into the politically correct lexicon of "multicultural" is, I feel, a perversion of the message on the Statue. There is, of course, nothing intrinsically negative to valuing and treasuring, and even maintaining one's cultural heritage--as I and my family still do. But the implication of the multicultural gurus is that every culture; every tradition is morally, politically, economically, socially, aesthetically, and in every other way equivalent to American culture.

I do not think that perspective is entirely true. The implication of the "diversity" divas is that diverse cultures are the strength and beauty our "national quilt". Well, yes each diverse component does contribute. But it is the overall quilt itself that is the desired result. It is the quilt's entire design that determines its beauty, meaning, and utility. A quilt is a fabric design made by cutting shapes from one or more fabrics and sewing them on top of another piece of fabric. In America we have made a "crazy quilt" comprised of the members of every national, ethnic, religious and racial group on the planet. The "batting" and "bindings" of the quilt are what pull the individual blocks together into its overall pattern. No one block determines the overall pattern and each block is subsumed into the pattern.

I have no problem with natives of say, Turkey, or Haiti, or China saying that their cultural beliefs are better than America's. That is their perogative--I don't agree with them--but they are entitled to their opinion. But if the culture is so excellent--why are people coming to the U.S. to live? If they are not open to another culture and accepting that other culture's values and goals, why come here? In other words, the immigrant--by the viture of the fact of their immigration is acknowledging the superior qualities of the country he or she immigrates to--or why immigrate? Becoming a citizen of this country presupposes that you accept those values and are no longer a Turk, Haitian, or Chinese--but now an American. If you abhor American values, why immigrate here?

Now that I have expressed my feelings --which you may or may not agree with--I'd like to address the very real problem that every free country has: how do you control your borders with the intent of "providing for the common defense" while at the same time asking the world to "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free"? You will notice that this question is very similar to one previously discussed here . That is because the basic premises and the underlying values are identical.

It seems reasonable to me that the solution to this problem is also similar; and that there should be a re-examination and re-evaluation of all of our current Immigration Policies with the idea of maintaining our basic values, but making it harder for those who wish to do us real harm to enter our borders unhindered. There is room for compromise between having a totally open border and its opposite--a border that is completely closed to all but a few elites.

I would propose that there be a moratorium on legal immigration for a period of time (perhaps 6 months to 1 year); as well as resolute enforcement of all current laws concerning both illegal and legal immigration; while all issues,problems, laws, and proposals are on the table and discussed in the context of a war on terror. At NASA, we used to have what was called a "Tiger Team" which was a group put together to address a high priority problem and make recommendations for its solution, both short and long-term. This would be a much better way to go than the usual "congressional hearings" BS, where partisan hacks can frolic unhindered.

I don't have all the solutions and I doubt that even a "Tiger Team" would be able to come up with a plan that would please everyone. But this is a very high-priority issue and it should be addressed seriously now, before our current policy failures contribute to the next 9/11-style attack within our country.

All I know for sure is that we must come up with strategies that are consistent with our values; and at the same time offer real security to American citizens during the difficult years ahead.

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