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Punjabi Manch   12th Issue  

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Editorial

The Issue of Amnesty For Millions of Undocumented Foreign Workers In America 

        These days the issue of undocumented foreign workers in the United States is becoming a hot topic.  It is said that there are an estimated seven to ten million undocumented foreign workers in the United States.  As the 2004 election season approaches, this topic may get even hotter.  Several media personnel and political figures hold a wide range of opinions.  There is a very good possibility that the Democrat Party may try to exploit this issue for their own political gains.  They may try to trap President George W. Bush by playing politics with this issue.  I am sure, our President and the Republican Party is aware of the pitfalls this issue may present in the coming election season.  This is a complicated problem and people on both sides are passionately defending their positions.  Here, we will briefly discuss this issue for the sake of those of you who are not up to speed on this.  We will discuss this issue from five different aspects namely: (a) The Legal Aspect (b) The Aspect of Homeland Security & National Defense (c) The Political Aspect (d) The Economic Aspect (e) The Humanitarian Aspect.  Now let us approach this issue from the above given five angles.

(a) The Legal Aspect:

Some prominent Americans are opposing the amnesty program only from the Legal angle.  This includes some well known media and political figures I generally admire but do not agree with in this case.  They argue that all these undocumented foreign workers or illegal aliens broke the law by entering this country illegally and must not be rewarded for breaking the law by offering them any kind of legal status.  Yes, those people broke the immigration law.  Now the question is if those people have broken any other laws of the country.  The answer is that a vast majority never broke any other laws.  They are generally hard working , law abiding people even though there may be some common criminals among them.    Those people need not be punished in order to punish a small number committing all kinds of crimes.  Those people came to this country because for them there were not only border openings but job openings as well.  That is why they did not go to Saudi Arabia, China or Cuba.  So, they were not completely unwelcome by the country.  The fact of the matter is that if you do not want people come into the country without proper documentation then seal the borders and stop offering any jobs and Government assistance to those who do slip through. The US Immigration Authorities and Border Patrol have already started doing a much better job due to changed circumstances.  I do I do not claim that everything is hunky dory but a lot of progress has been made for sure.  I personally experienced a very different, professional and thorough Immigration & Custom Service at the US-Canada border a few weeks ago when I drove to Canada even though I have been doing it consistently for over ten years.  A group of Punjabi Authors had a similar experience at the Canada-US border a year ago in June of 2002 when they were coming to attend Sawraj Kaur's Book Release function organized by Punjabi Manch and Punjabi Sahit Sabha in Kent, WA, USA.  These were bitter-sweet experiences but on the whole people do not mind such inconveniences due to changed circumstances. The American People and the foreigners immigrating to the United States will slowly get used to such rigorous security checks causing inconveniences just like the Israeli people are used to such things in Israel. This is good for our own safety and security even though it may be hurting free trade and the overall economy.

(b) The Aspect of Homeland Security & National Defense:

The people who are opposing any kind of amnesty program are citing the National Defense/Homeland Security concerns.  They argue that there are thousands of terrorists or at least terrorist sympathizers hidden amongst those millions.  They argue that offering a blanket amnesty will be legalizing all those enemies of the country.  Well, they may have a point but there is no need to offer a blanket amnesty program in the first place.  It can be done in a systematic fashion in different stages.  The amnesty program of 1986 signed into law by President Ronald Reagan can serve as a model or a foundation to be built upon.  That program turned millions of foreigners into good, hard working, tax paying and decent patriotic Americans.  That program did not produce any September 11 terrorists.  On the other hand, people like John Walker Lindh just to mention one well publicized example out of hundreds of different kinds of traitors are native born Americans.  Are there terrorists among millions of undocumented foreigners? I do not doubt for a minute that there may be several hundred including thousands of other kinds of common criminals but those can be identified, separated, prosecuted and eventually deported.  However, there is no justification for spending billions of dollars for deporting millions of people.  At this time, criminals may be hiding amongst the undocumented workers.  Once the process of identification for the sake of systematic legalization begins, it will become much easier to track people down.  The law enforcement will know who is who including the ones who are undesirable and need to be deported.  I am amazed that the opponents of Legalization/Amnesty are so worried about some hidden enemies who may or may not exist among millions of decent, hard working undocumented foreigners that they want to throw the baby out with the bath water.  Why are they not worried about the people who have already become legal residents and even citizens in some cases but are spewing venom against America day in and day out.  They are in every community including the East Indian Hindu, Sikh and the Muslim communities.  They are out there in the open and leave no stone unturned to abuse the freedom of speech to damage America's image thereby creating more enemies for the country.  They rival Farrakhan in bashing America and Israel.  Why is there no one opting to chase such snakes down? I do not know the answer to this question.  There is one thing that I do know for sure that every such snake that I know of has taken cover in the Democrat Party.

(c) Political Aspect:

This is the most powerful aspect of this whole issue.  Neither party i.e. neither the Democrats nor the Republicans can afford to take a political risk to deport millions of undocumented foreign workers.  The party that does it will be completely demonized. That party has to deal with worldwide repercussions.  Such mass deportations will be a devastating blow to America's image worldwide plus it can push American economy into recession. The East Indian people do have their bitter memories based on some historical Occurrences.  They often cite the example of the African nation of Uganda where even the legal residents and citizens were forced to leave.  Neither party has the political will to opt for a policy of mass deportations because it will not only tarnish that party's image for a long time to come but it is also going to create more enemies for America worldwide.  So, in the absence of such a political will, what are the alternatives.  Well, there are only two.  The first one is a status quo and the second one is some sort of systematic amnesty or systematic legalization program.  As the status quo is not a real solution, it leaves us with essentially one solution that being the systematic legalization.

(d) Economic Aspect:

The opponents of immigration in general and illegal immigration in particular argue that foreign workers are a drain on the American economy.  They argue that immigrants take away the jobs that otherwise would have gone to the US citizens.  They further argue that this gives rise to unemployment and scarcity of badly needed public resources.  They claim that as a result, American citizens suffer.  They say that majority of such aliens do not spend much money here in America because they do not buy cars, houses and other big ticket items and as a result the American economy suffer due to cash drain.  Well, there is some truth to their argument about cash drain as many people are afraid to spend money on big ticket items due to the fear that they may be thrown out or deported any time.  They argue that America can absorb only 300,000 new immigrants every year.  Well, if that is the case then allow only 300,000 to come in every year and let their sponsors help them get settled.  However, their argument about taking jobs away from the American citizens is wrong. The fact of the matter is that most of these undocumented foreign workers take the low paying jobs American citizens won't even consider taking, accept the lowest compensation that Americans won't accept and mostly live in treacherous conditions that Americans won't live in.   Therefore, the argument about taking the jobs away from the American citizens does not hold water.  The fact of the matter is that some sectors of the American economy like Agriculture, Hospitality Industry and Janitorial Services is highly dependent on these foreign workers to provide low cost goods and services.  Therefore, it is a logical conclusion that the absence of these foreign workers will be a severe blow to the overall American economy. So the solution lies not in the mass deportations but in mass legalizations even though it can be achieved in steps in a very systematic manner.

(e) Humanitarian Aspect:

The last but not the least is the humanitarian aspect of this issue.  America is known to be a land of opportunity, freedom and compassion.  This is the reason people from all over the world come to America.  Many of these undocumented foreign workers did not bring in their foreign born children with them.  Many children were born here.  When you decide to throw the undocumented parents out, what about the innocent children who were born here.  Those are American citizens by birth and how about their rights.  Some legal zealots go so far as suggesting that everybody including the US born children of illegal immigrants should be thrown out.  I do not doubt for a minute that these people are making such suggestion out of their sense of Patriotism but the end result will be highly damaging to the country.  I can assure you that such a move will amount to political suicide for any party.  Any organization or political party advocating such an extreme measure will immediately remind people of Hitler's Nazi Germany.  No President and no political party can afford such a folly.  It will become another National Disgrace for America.  This will be a tragedy and legally speaking could be only second to the tragedy of "Herding of the Japanese Americans into the Concentration Camps" in America during world War II.  However, if you analyze it from the humanitarian angle, this will be a bigger tragedy with far reaching international repercussions against America.  It will create more problems than it may solve.  This may be a choice for legal zealots and cold hearted conservatives but a compassionate conservative Republican leader like our President George W. Bush can not afford to opt for.

 

Yours Truly,

Amrik S. Kang                                 Puyallup, WA, USA.                              June 30, 2003