In search of comprehensive immigration reform

I'm going to subject you to another compromise column today, this one about so-called comprehensive immigration reform, which means different things to different people.

To illegal immigration advocates "reform" means amnesty - legalizing some 11 million people who live here in violation of our immigration laws. We tried that once before when President Reagan signed a generous amnesty bill in 1986, and it didn't work. What it did do was to open the floodgates to additional millions of illegal immigrants. So we don't want to try that again.

We're told how Hispanic votes made the difference in President Obama's victory over Republican contender Mitt Romney last month, but I think that's an oversimplification of the election results. Although Obama carried Hispanic voters by a wide margin, 70-30, they don't march in lockstep on immigration issues. In fact, many of them - like my late Mexican-born wife, Consuelo - think that people who want to emigrate to the U.S. should obey our immigration and naturalization laws, like she did by learning English and studying our Constitution.

A Reno newspaper published a report earlier this month arguing that legalizing the illegals would benefit Nevada's economy. The report, by Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda of the left-leaning Center for American Progress, concluded that Nevada and six other Western states "would gain significantly from legalizing their unauthorized (illegal) immigrants." Baloney! Illegal immigrants cost Nevada taxpayers millions of dollars each year through "free" public education, health care, and assorted federal and state welfare programs.

GOP presidential candidate Romney made a big mistake when he attempted to position himself to the right of Texas Gov. Rick Perry on the immigration issue. Romney should have adopted a more moderate position, recognizing that 11 million illegal immigrants weren't going to deport themselves to their home countries.

What he and other Republican candidates should have done is to have carefully examined a bipartisan comprehensive immigration plan proposed by senators Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., which will be considered again early next year. Their plan would tighten border security, create a path to citizenship for illegals by requiring them to have clean police records (while deporting criminal aliens), and to learn English, and by cracking down on employers who knowingly hire "undocumented" (illegal) workers. Fair enough, as long as the illegals pay fines and go to the back of the citizenship line.

I continue to oppose the "Dream Act" as written because it would provide millions of taxpayer dollars to foreign-born children of illegal immigrants. If such money is available, it should go first to American citizens.

And finally, President Obama and Congress should distinguish between two kinds of immigrants: (1) those who come here with skills that will contribute to our economic growth, and (2) unskilled, undereducated immigrants (the "huddled masses") who must be subsidized by American taxpayers. A viable immigration policy would authorize many more of the former and way fewer of the latter.

Congress should get to work on comprehensive immigration reform early next year because the sooner this issue is resolved, the better for all concerned.

• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, frequently writes about immigration issues.


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