I read Eleanor Paschal’s Feb. 12 guest column about understanding illegal immigrants with some dismay, and I must respectfully disagree. While I understand that the compassion and sense of injustice she expresses is certainly appropriate for a young person in a university environment, it is, unfortunately, misplaced and does not justify or excuse illegal immigration.
I know a thing or two about Hispanic immigrants because, for one thing, I am one. In 1956, when I was 5 years old, my parents, my sister and I left the country that had been home to my family for more than 150 years and emigrated from Cuba to the United States.
From the moment we arrived, we began the process of becoming Americans. We spoke Spanish at home, but became fluent in English. We remained proud of our cultural heritage, but adopted the customs and traditions of our new country. We celebrated its holidays, learned its history and ultimately became proud citizens of the greatest country ever to grace God’s earth.
The difference was we did not sneak in over the border to do so. We instead followed the process as required by American law.
America rewards hard work and provides opportunities not found elsewhere. I paid my own way through college, got an entry-level job and worked my way up. I have enjoyed what most would consider a successful life. I understand better than most why people struggling with poverty, corruption and crime in other countries would want to come here. It is a chance for a new start in a better place, an opportunity for their children to live in freedom and achieve success and happiness. But compassion alone is not a good enough reason to disregard violation of our sovereignty and contempt for our laws.
Those who argue in favor of the right of illegals to be here claim that America is a country of immigrants, and to a certain extent that’s true. But they leave out one important fact: We are a country of legal immigrants. Those who sneak into this country illegally betray their fundamental ignorance of the nature of the country whose laws and regulations they violate the moment they set foot on its soil.
America is first and foremost a nation of laws. We cherish and strive for an orderly society. We despise corruption and lawlessness. We abhor anarchy. We cannot encourage and even reward lawless behavior on the part of illegal immigrants without risking engendering the same cynical attitudes towards government and the rule of law in our own country that is so prevalent in theirs.
As far as our economy floating on their poverty is concerned, quite the opposite is true. Studies have shown that the costs associated with illegals for law enforcement, medical care, education, social and other services, not to mention unrealized tax revenues, far outweigh any benefits resulting from their economic activities. As far as I am concerned, I would gladly trade paying one dollar more per tomato in exchange for reducing the costs mentioned above.
As I tell my children, “to be young and conservative is to have no heart,” so
Ms. Paschal’s views on the issue are understandable. However, as she gets older, enters the workforce, pays taxes and comes to realize the economic, cultural and social impact unrestricted illegal immigration is having on our nation, her views might change. As a legal immigrant, I certainly hope they do.