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Ed cetera

Join the informed, opinionated journalists of The Times' editorial staff in lively discussions at our blog Ed Cetera.

April 23, 2010 at 2:52 PM

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Civil Disagreement: Immigration

Posted by Lynne Varner

Civil disagreements, with Lynne Varner and Bruce Ramsey of the Seattle Times editorial board, is a feature of the Ed Cetera blog. Today the colleagues debate immigration reform.

Lynne Varner, left, and Bruce Ramsey

Lynne Varner: Bruce, I recently opined about immigration control's myopic lense on those entering the country illegally from Mexico.
Today the Arizona Legislature has signed the toughest law on illegal immigration in the country. President Obama slammed the law and rightly, in my opinion, urged Arizona to wait for immigration reform at the federal level.

If Arizona's governor signs the bill, local law enforcement and city administrators will have to implement a law certain to put a drain on resources and which could lead to racial profiling.

Interesting week. A step forward with the Washington state Supreme Court's ruling giving undocumented immigrants the same right to a safe workplace as the rest of us; two steps backwards with Arizona's move.

Bruce Ramsey: Lynne, I am not sure what rights an undocumented worker--a.k.a. illegal alien--has. When Fidel Castro dumped 100,000 prisoners into Florida in 1980, they were apprehended, and some of them sent to McNeil Island. I remember that, because I attended several of the hearings at the Seattle INS building. And the prisoners didn't have any rights, really. Legally, they were not here.

I am not against immigrants. I am married to one. My inlaws are immigrants--lawful immigrants. They were sponsored, they filled out applications that listed all of the social and political organizations they'd ever been members of, etc., and they waited ten years to come here. They believe they are different from people who just climbed over the fence, and I think they are.

I think immigration is OK as long as it is limited and controlled. I don't want it uncontrolled because I don't want to be swamped, politically or culturally. In fact, it is partially controlled now. If immigration were wide open, we would be surrounded by squatter camps and Hoovervilles full of foreigners. To prevent that, we have to control it--and we do, sort of. But not well.

One side of this debate wants to excuse the 11 million illegals already here, and then "control the border." The other side wants to kick them out, and then "control the border." It's not realistic to kick them all out; but neither is it realistic to believe you can make nice to everybody and then be really tough at the border. Anyway, you cannot solve this by controlling only the border. You have police the country internally, and people are uncomfortable with that.

I don't know about what Arizona is doing. But it is clearly out of frustration at the national government--whose job it is--not doing enough to catch and deport illegal immigrants. Maybe we need a national ID card which everyone would need to show before getting a job, opening a bank account or enrolling a child in school. I don't like it, but there it is. I lived in Hong Kong for 3 years, and I had to carry such a card there at all times. It's no different than carrying a driver's license, or having a government license plate on your car. You get used to it.

Lynne replies:Arizona is not doing this out of frustration, but rather a calculated nod to one segment of the population. Frustrations about a lack of movement on immigration reform could be easily dealt with by informing Congressional representatives that they won't be voted out of office if the move on immigration reform. If the votes were there, the Democrats in Congress would take up immigration reform tomorrow. But they know Republicans will block it, hence Arizona.

You and I agree on the principals of legal immigration and controlled borders. The question is how to do it in a way that recognizes the vital role legal and illegal immigrants play in American agricultural and manufacturing industries. Try doing without this labor supply and watch our economy choke. The only solution is a legal and fair route to citizenship must accompany rigorous border patrol and policing.

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