Nobody looks good straddling the fence, and that includes both the President and an illegal alien climbing his way over the border. I'm going to comment on random ugly or foolish things that caught my eye in the President's speech:
Once here, illegal immigrants live in the shadows of our society. This is a phrase borrowed directly from La Raza and it's intent, as La Raza uses it, is a positive connotation — i.e., these poor innocents are denied life in the sun, and we owe them that life. I'm therefore less than thrilled to see the President borrow it. Many use forged documents to get jobs, and that makes it difficult for employers to verify that the workers they hire are legal. Illegal immigration puts pressure on public schools and hospitals, it strains state and local budgets, and brings crime to our communities. These are real problems. Yet we must remember that the vast majority of illegal immigrants are decent people who work hard, support their families, practice their faith, and lead responsible lives. I kind of quarrel with this. These people's first act is to break the law. They're in our country illegally. They live a life that is a lie to use our social services, piggy back on our education system, and send our money to Mexico. I'm a little less sympathetic, therefore, to the fact that many are hard workers. They are a part of American life, but they are beyond the reach and protection of American law.
First, the United States must secure its borders. This is a basic responsibility of a sovereign nation. It is also an urgent requirement of our national security. Our objective is straightforward: The border should be open to trade and lawful immigration, and shut to illegal immigrants, as well as criminals, drug dealers, and terrorists." This almost falls into the "well, duh!" category. I find it strange that the President has to introduce it as a proposition that actually needs to be defended.
I'm a big fan of technology — couldn't live without it — but I won't hold my breath that all these new high tech devices the President promises are going to change the situation. We can police 'til we're blue in the face, but until our country stops being such an inviting place, illegal aliens are going to keep coming. There's no technology that humans can't beat. And once they're in, as the Presdient noted earlier in his speech, they just create forged identities. Until we change laws that give every illegal and his illegal uncle a vast range of social services that's far in excess of both the minimal taxes paid and the sums being sent to Mexico, a few drones aren't going to stop things.
I like the President's idea to toughen up the "catch and release" problem. Up until now, the situation has been a pointless waste of time and money, with detention centers simply serving as temporary hotels for non-Mexican immigrants before releasing them back on the streets. Someone needs to remind me why we've been spending my tax dollars on this futile effort in the first place. Actually returning people to their points of origin will be much more effective than going through this charade.
I hate, hate, hate the idea of a temporary worker program. If the President thinks "catch and release" is useless because it simply puts people back on the streets, what is he thinking with the temporary worker program? It will invite people onto the streets. Once these millions of "temporary workers" get a foothold here, they'll never leave. They'll just be illegals under another name. The green card system works, more or less, because it involves people at a higher economic level. They live in a credit and tax society where they can be found. The guest workers will slip easily into the already existing shadow economy and vanish. The President proposes using technology to defeat this risk, but I have my doubts. As I've noted earlier, people, given energy and incentives, will always be able to circumvent technology.
Fourth, we must face the reality that millions of illegal immigrants are here already. They should not be given an automatic path to citizenship. This is amnesty, and I oppose it. Amnesty would be unfair to those who are here lawfully, and it would invite further waves of illegal immigration. He's off to a good start, but he's going to lose it.
Some in this country argue that the solution is to deport every illegal immigrant, and that any proposal short of this amounts to amnesty. I disagree. It is neither wise, nor realistic to round up millions of people, many with deep roots in the United States, and send them across the border. Mr. President, their deep roots are the fruit of the poisonous tree. They came here illegally. Anything we give them short of deportation is a reward for breaking the law and an incentive for some other lawbreaker. There is a rational middle ground between granting an automatic path to citizenship for every illegal immigrant, and a program of mass deportation. That middle ground recognizes there are differences between an illegal immigrant who crossed the border recently, and someone who has worked here for many years, and has a home, a family, and an otherwise clean record. No, really, there is no difference. The one whose been here longer has just had a longer time to absorb social services and send more money back to Mexico. The situations are otherwise equal — they both broke the law, and you're going to reward the one who managed to go the longest without getting caught.
I believe that illegal immigrants who have roots in our country and want to stay should have to pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law, to pay their taxes Wait! Haven't we been told for years that they are already paying taxes?, to learn English, and to work in a job for a number of years. People who meet these conditions should be able to apply for citizenship, but approval would not be automatic, and they will have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law. What I've just described is not amnesty, it is a way for those who have broken the law to pay their debt to society, and demonstrate the character that makes a good citizen. It sure sounds like amnesty to me. If you've managed to stay beneath the radar, you've got yourself a free pass to American citizenship. That is so totally unfair to the people trying to get into this country legally. And the crock about waiting in line behind legal immigrants is ridiculous. There is less room for legal immigrants because of the illegals. They've already made the line intolerably long. And you haven't demonstrated the character of a good citizen if you've spent every minute of your life in one big illegal act.
I also didn't appreciate the fact that the President announced that assimilation is a good thing, without drawing any conclusions from that statement. Is he going to do away with bilingual education (as he should)? Is he going to require new immigrants to take immersion English classes (as he should)? Is he going to make English a prerequisite for citizenship (as he should)? Or is he just going to mouth platitudes that have no more meaning than Rodney King's "Can't we all get along?"
Overall, the speech is sneaky in that it conflates legal immigration with illegal immigration. I'm the product of two legal immigrants. My father waited nine years to get into this country. My parents spoke English, paid taxes, and never took a dime's worth of welfare. They were not rich, high tech workers. They came to this country with nothing. But they came here clean. That's what I'm proud of, and to try to wiggle all the illegal immigrants under that umbrella is almost indecent.