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Monday, June 21, 2004

Pasadena Star-News - Address illegal immigrant issues

Pasadena Star-News - Opinion

Address illegal immigrant issues

RECENT border patrol sweeps in the Inland Empire have sent fear rippling through the local undocumented population, emptying supermarkets, job sites, parks and even schools. Clearly we're talking about more than a few folks who have come into this country without the help or blessing of immigration officials.
An understandable uproar from those netted and their supporters followed the raids last week. Certainly no one wants to be deported back to a country with no economic opportunity.

Instead of encouraging law breaking however, representatives such as Joe Baca, D-San Bernardino, who led a protest against the sweeps, should work toward immigration reform to benefit American workers as well as the Mexican people.

Upping the number of work visas would help out-of-work Mexican citizens while keeping U.S. wages high.

But there's a better way. Jobs creation in Mexico.

Representatives from California, Texas and Arizona, traditional jumping off points for illegal entry into the United States, ought to insist on policy that affords economic aid to Mexico.

We agree with Rep. David Dreier, R-Glendora, who echoes our common-sense view that fewer Mexicans would risk illegal border crossings if there were more economic opportunity at home. Dreier expressed his ideas before leaving for a U.S.-Mexico summit in Guadalajara last month.

We expect area representatives to join him in pushing that agenda that gives Mexicans every reason to remain in Mexico, not amnesty that has proved to encourage more illegal migration.

Illegal immigrants now comprise a large underground work force that depresses wages for Americans, increasingly vying for the same employment. That Mexican immigrants take only the jobs field work, housekeeping that Americans won't do is a myth. It's simply that most Americans won't work for less than minimum wage.

Unscrupulous employers know the undocumented will and better, they'll keep quiet about workplace abuses. Threats of deportation don't work on U.S. citizens.

Further, our nation suffers from under-the-table employment. Many illegal immigrants work for cash. Tax dollars that pay for education and social services are lost and the lack of health benefits pushes them to use hospital emergency rooms for routine health care, overloading a system designed for lifesaving. Second-class status; always looking over your shoulder. It's no way to live.

But neither should Americans see their quality of life degraded by overpopulation and loss of employment by an untenable influx of illegal immigrants. Nationwide, the Hispanic population increased by 13 percent between 2000 and 2003, putting the country's largest minority at 39.9 million and counting. According to the Associated Press, much of that growth was fueled by immigration despite the recession and after-effects of 9/11.

Border Patrol officials said they were responding to information supplied by community members that large numbers of illegal immigrants were living in the sweep areas.

As far as any one city being declared off-limits to such immigration activity as some protesters asserted about Pasadena, it just isn't so. While we feel for these families, the fact remains they have broken the law. The answer is not more lawbreaking but reasonable reform that allows a limited number of immigrants into the country along with policy that helps increase economic opportunity in Mexico.

Such cross-border cooperation would likely result in fewer American jobs lost overall and is preferable to cheapening wages here at home.

Unless more lawmakers, especially the California caucus, are willing to address these issues, Border Patrol sweeps and the resulting deportations sadly must remain an option.

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