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« Conversation with the Master: The Personal Legend | Main | Where are Candidates, Manifestoes, or Alternatives to President Obasanjo? »

April 10, 2006

A Brief Glance at Illegal Immigration

by Chuma Okeke (USA) --- It looks as if the US congress is finally ready to do something about illegal immigration. On one end of the discursive spectrum are people advocating for more stringent measures against illegal immigration. This side of the debate—populated by republican, traditionalist, values-vaunting, white Christians—would make it a criminal offence to be discovered in the US as an illegal alien.

Furthermore, any support given to illegal immigrants would be viewed as an actionable offense by people in this corner. They would want the government to deport the over two million illegal immigrants in the country. This is backed by other measures such as increasingly patrolling the border or erecting an over 2000 mile-long wall at the border to check the heavy influx of illegal immigrants from Mexico. Needless to say, the people of this ideological persuasion mean serious business.

On the other end of the spectrum are laissez faire, politically detached romanticists who cannot be made to understand nor appreciate the pestilential effects of unbridled illegal immigration on a country's limitable resources.. They propose automatic citizenship for illegal aliens. If you pressed them with facts, then they may grudgingly modify their stance to suggest that the government should grant citizenship to illegal immigrants who have been in the country for a while. They are persuaded that borders serve no meaningful purpose.

This is an understandably difficult issue. How best should this problem be tackled? Should amnesty be granted to people who filter in from war-ravaged countries? Should special considerations be made for people who swam past dangerous waters to flee home-grown communism or other forms of tyranny? Should special considerations be made for people who have been in the country for over 15 years, who work and pay taxes and who also happen to have born children with American citizenship? Should these illegal immigrants be made to pay a token sum after which they would then be granted proper status? What of their children--do they automatically become properties of the State? How should illegal immigration from Canada be handled without provoking the displeasure of prestige-protecting Canadian government and citizenry?

All these and more questions needed to be resolved. President Bush's position seems to be a cautious, between-the-extremes approach. While he is not in support of some gun-toting, house-by-house raid to rid the country of illegal immigrants, he is also not going for some Santaesque scheme to indiscriminately grant citizenship to illegal immigrants. His proposition is studiously simple. He wants to establish a guest-worker program. Yeah, how does that work?

Let's say Juan Fernando is an illegal alien working in one of the fruit fields in South Texas. Let's also say that Juan has no peace of mind as he is constantly worried that he may be caught and tossed out of the country on his ear. Let us also say that he is not entitled to any medical or insurance benefits, neither is he free to drive or own property.

In Juan's case, all he needs to do is to go to the appropriate authorities with valid proof that he works, earns some wages and pays some form of taxes to the government. He will then be issued a guest-worker permit which would automatically take care of all the conditions listed above. The only catch is that at the expiration of his guest-worker permit, he should and is expected to willingly return back to his country with all the dollars he saved while working in the US. No ifs and buts. Besides, he can reapply if he wants.

Like I said, this solution is simple and straightforward. It acknowledges that the US economy—indeed the United States as a whole—was founded on the strength of immigrant labor. Much as some right-wingers may refuse to acknowledge this, there are some jobs out there that no citizen of the US wants or is willing to do for the pay it attracts. It also seeks to reward the illegal immigrant who has thus far refrained from constituting him/herself an acrid strain on both local and state economies and infrastructure.

Also, this proposal helps to put the names of these illegal immigrants into the system thus drastically improving the ability of local or federal law enforcement in tracking down otherwise faceless, illegal immigrants. The MS-13 gang comes to mind. Lastly, this eliminates or seriously limits the booming multi-million dollar yearly racket from ID card, Driving License, or other document forgeries.

This is by no means a cure-all. As a matter of fact, it is debatable whether the illegal immigrants can be persuaded to submit themselves to any arrangement fashioned at getting a guest-worker status or ID card. It is also not very certain that these new and properly identified guest-laborers might be eligible for health benefit packages neither is it clear that such guest-workers might indeed qualify for child daycare support or even welfare if their income level is abysmally low. Besides, if this is not a fast track toward citizenship or legal permanent residency, what incentive is there in it to persuade assimilated illegal immigrants to expose their undocumented status? It is not terribly clear why any illegal immigrant would want to trade the possibility of staying in the US, under the radar, for many years to embrace Bush's plan. Furthermore, it is open to speculation whether these congressmen and women will really compromise their future elective appeal by adopting a needlessly xenophobic posture. Can all the illegal immigrants in this country really be ascertained and ( i dunno) forcefully evicted? While Bush's plan appears uncomplicated and consequently open to doubt and conjecture, I am equally convinced, on the other hand, that illegal immigrants would not favor desultory but sustained harassment at the hands of overzealous minutemen nor the subsequent deportation by the State.

So now, you are asking "How is this any business of mine?" Well, hopefully, you have never given succor to any illegal immigrant (that is, if you are not an illegal immigrant yourself for these could become grave crimes), or you now have all your nuclear and extended family residing LEGALLY in the States. To you, I wish to say "Good day and Goodbye." If you are not in this category though, then you should be heavily invested in the outcome of the political wrangling on this issue. Its outcome could radically influence your future. The time to speak up on this matter is now. Oh yes, if you are not articulate enough, why not form or join a (peaceful) rally? While conscientious people are mindful of not rewarding illegal immigration given the fact that some malicious, terrorist types have now become a sad geopolitical reality, meticulous care must be taken to shift the discussion away from the familiar terrain of reactionary isolationist xenophobes with an exaggerated sense of patriotism.

The author is a US based freelance writer. He can be reached at

Posted by Administrator at April 10, 2006 10:28 AM


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