Letter from the Editor

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Immigrant angst

The new statehouse Republican plan on illegal immigration is being called "tough love" by some - and they're half right. It's tough something alright, but "love" may not be the proper noun.

The plan, it seems, would deny medical care, food and education to the children of undocumented immigrants.

This, it seems, is what a large segment of the population wishes. And frankly, it is not without reason. After all, we are a country in some economic distress - an aging workforce strained to cover a seemingly ever-increasing burden of social welfare. If we can barely afford the costs of offering Medicade, food stamps and the chance for a state-provided higher education to our own, why should we do so for those who are citizens of some other country who may be here against our laws?

Looking at the proposal, the unspoken purpose seems clear enough.

If the feds aren't going to let us round up the people we don't think belong, whether they have done anything particularly wrong or not, and summarily dump them back in Santa Rita, then we have to make life in the U.S. so uncomfortable for them that they won't want to be here.

It is the same kind of thinking we used with the sex offenders (which we do not oppose, by the way.)

If the feds won't keep those offenders in prison, then we will set up restrictions on where they live in such a way that it is most unlikely that we can enforce it, but perhaps making it uncomfortable enough that they will just go live in a state with less regulation. Not ideal logic, but we wouldn't be sorry to see them go, either.

But there is a difference between violent predators and working family people.

And when we succeed with the same kind of scare-away strategy on immigration - what will we have done?

Empty jobs and school desks? Caused our communities to have more sick, hungry, frustrated people without a possibility of higher learning to break the circle of poverty? This state isn't exactly overflowing with young families and native population growth.

And can lawmakers really tell legal immigrants from illegals? I'm not sure I can. Fake and stolen documentation is rampant. Family backgrounds are uncertain, visa status can be complex, communication can be difficult, the paperwork time for citizenship has gotten out of hand. This is the so-called gray area.

The Democrat plan, focusing on the corporations that hire workers and dealing little with immigrants themselves, is lacking too - it seems weak. All it may do is discourage good companies from hiring people with brown skin, legal or otherwise.

It is a perplexing problem. Mass deportation would only overflow courts and jails, and undoubtedly illegals would come right back with a new name and ID card.

No one seems to have all the answers. Neither blanket amnesty or our own version of the Great Wall alone somehow seem totally right.

Illegal is illegal, but the children of undocumented residents can hardly be held to blame for being here.

Would we really deny them food if they are hungry, medicine if they are sick, and have them thrown off our community college campuses? That doesn't sound like Iowa.

Iowa's stance has always been that education is a solution, not part of the problem. Young people who are educated are our hope for a better lifestyle and economy, in this country and others.

Nobody wants to give handouts, but what about giving a chance? Without access to hope for education for all, we're creating a slave class. And while saving ourselves a bit in the short run, we may pay for it in social welfare for a lifetime.

There's good in the Republican plan and the Democratic one - some help for employer screening, more state officers trained in immigration issues. Responsibility for those employers who would take advantage. Deportation for crime - any crime. Hopefully, a better ID system.

Let's take steps here, but in the process, let's not give up who we are. Treating any people as less than people would be falling into that kind of trap.


GROUNDHOG BURGER, ANYONE? - So, Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow and doomed us to six more weeks of winter.

As near as I can recall in my cabin-fevered brain, it has already been winter for approximately sixteen years now. Frankly, I think we should drag that overgrown chipmunk out of its hole and give it a good slapping around. Possibly a piledriver.

A little incentive to see it our way come next February.

One more year of this interminable, indominable, unfathomable winter, and, I warn you Phil, it's going to be grilled groundhog-ka-bobs for everyone.

Who appointed this fleabitten, saggy old rodent as chief meteorological prognosticator, anyway? Was it Moses? Bill Murray? The Weather Channel? The Crocodile Hunter?

We need a critter with a sunnier disposition for this gig. I doubt that a flamingo, armadillo or gecko would stick us with an extra month-and-a-half of frozen crudsickle life.

Look, it's been a long winter, Phil. Our nerves are a little frayed. A little groundhoggedly consideration here may be in order. One more screw-up like this, and you're sacked. We'll pitch you out of your comfy den on the public dole and let you try to make it out on on the tundra with the hungry timberwolves.

You can be replaced, Phil baby, by any old scruffy beast we can find with bad eyesight, a pair of Ray-Bans, or an attention span too short to go looking for shadows where we don't need them to be. Capiche, Philbert? And Pennsylvanians, what are you thinking? Put the nutty critter out and night, lads, and we could soon be sitting under the beach umbrellas sipping boat drinks.