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| Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Hayden Duke | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Edward Lulie III | Cindy A. Rose | Richard B. Weldon Jr. | Brooke Winn |


Advertise on the Tentacle

May 15, 2006

''Give me your tired, your poor…''

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Our nation is struggling to deal with a problem that threatens to alter every aspect of our lives. Employment, education, healthcare, and housing are all at the center of the debate over our national immigration policy.

Historically one of the most (if not THE most) welcoming countries in the world, our national heritage is told through the experiences of millions of people who came here from somewhere else.

Defenders of strong anti-immigration policy ignore the fact – unless they are more than 75% Native American – that their forefathers also came here from somewhere else. I suspect, if given the choice back then, Native Americans would have sent those European interlopers packing back in their cramped little sailing vessels.

As is the case with most issues of national importance, liberals and conservatives have staked out opposite positions that support their ideologies but ignore common sense and basic truth.

Liberals claim that any policy that creates a strong national identity is racist, obscuring the diversity that has made this country strong. Conservatives argue that a lack of strong national identity undermines our culture and weakens our worldwide image and reputation.

Whether you are a diversity fan or a nationalist, we can all agree that our immigration policies are essentially a joke, and on that point we find broader agreement than any other.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D., NY) spoke about the problem on a nationally syndicated radio program recently and said that we have lost control of our ability to track people who come to this country seeking asylum. He mentioned that we greet them at an international terminal at a U.S. airport, have them fill out some paperwork, and then ask them to report to a hearing as much as six months down the road.

Guess Senator Schumer missed the Steven Spielberg film “The Terminal.” Tom Hanks’ eastern European citizen was trapped in an airport terminal for months due to immigration law snafus. Senator Schumer, a leading liberal, also commented that the borders were too porous, and that any meaningful immigration reform policy would have to address that problem.

On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R., CO) is the voice of strong anti-illegal immigration policy. He has willingly and aggressively taken on the Bush Administration and his fellow Republicans for being too soft on fighting illegal immigration. Often labeled a racist by the left, Representative Tancredo is passionate and knowledgeable on these issues.

This argument is not a new thing by any means. Back in the early 1900’s, President Theodore Roosevelt expressed his opinion on the immigration question.

"In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man's becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile...We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language...and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.

“Theodore Roosevelt 1907”

According to TR’s construct, African-Americans, Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, and any other variety of hyphenated American is not an American at all. According to his view, the hyphen is a disqualifier, that you are either an American or you are something else.

My research yielded a very interesting fact. This quote, often attributed to President Teddy Roosevelt during his presidency, was actually written much later, long after he’d left the White House. According to his personal papers, he penned these words in a letter to a friend, three years prior to his death in 1919.

Presidential historians point to a period of TR’s later life where he became an ardent Nationalist, arguing against the destructive nature of split allegiance. His quotes in the letter seem to bear that out.

Our sense of the scope of this problem is affected by informal observations. The crime log in The Frederick News Post shows a dramatic upturn in arrests of citizens with Hispanic names. Following that trend, police activity has increased substantially in areas that have become defacto neighborhoods for immigrants, such as the Hillcrest and Amber Meadows areas. Is that a racist comment or an honest observation?

Our public schools have seen a dramatic increase in demand for English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, and now we see the demand increasing at our colleges, too. Healthcare is a major concern, as many immigrants, especially those here in an illegal capacity, do not address basic health needs, and ultimately present at the Frederick Memorial Hospital emergency room. Again, not a racist’s view, but an honest interpretation of statistical data.

Our state healthcare system demands that ER care be rendered without regard to the patient’s ability to pay, as long as bed space is available. Uncompensated care is responsible for consuming millions of dollars of state Medicaid revenue, money that could be used to improve the health of all citizens. Other forms of assistance, such as housing and food stamps, are tracking with the above trends.

The Frederick City aldermen and staff are wrestling with how many is too many people living in a single dwelling unit. While this is not necessarily a new phenomenon, pro-immigration groups like CASA of Maryland state that local government needs to be aware that cultural differences may create community conflicts.

What they mean is that “family” may mean something very different to a Guatemalan or El Salvadoran than it does to their new American neighbor in the townhouses off Hillcrest Drive.

Tonight President George W. Bush, in a scheduled address to the nation, will announce a new component of his strategy for dealing with illegal immigration. Pundits (probably benefiting from lots of authorized “leaking”) suggest that he’ll declare a commitment to place National Guard troops along our southern border with Mexico.

These troops will be under the control of the border-state governors (a good idea) but will be paid for by the federal government (an even better idea). It just seems logical that any discussion about a guest worker program, or any form of recognition for someone who entered this country illegally, should begin after our federal government has finally and conclusively addressed the ability for a foreign national to walk across the border unimpeded.

We welcome the world’s “tired, poor, and huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” The poem inscribed at the feet of Lady Liberty means the same thing today that it did in the in the early 1900’s. The only difference is that we want folks to respect our laws by coming here in the tradition of our great immigrant heritage, not slipping across the Rio Grande in the middle of the night.

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