Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Immigration reform should be left up to the Federal Government

An Associated Press report this week showed some evidence that illegal immigrants are returning to Alabama after fleeing the state in droves to escape HB 56.

Of the 18 Hispanic immigrants the AP interviewed in the Birmingham area, six said they had family members or friends who had come back to Alabama after leaving the state in fear of the harsh anti-illegal immigration law signed by Gov. Robert Bentley last year.

This is good news for Alabama and our economy because we need undocumented workers, especially in areas rebuilding from last year’s devastating tornadoes. But it is bad news for border security and further proof of the futility of state-based efforts to police immigration.

The immigrants are returning because the law has been largely unenforced, and the courts have struck down some provisions. The law has been unenforced because it is unenforceable.

After immigrants enter the country, it is hard to stop them from finding some sort of housing, employment and transportation.

The only way to deal with illegal immigration is to stop it at its source. That requires a federal effort to secure the border.

More fencing across a longer stretch of the border, if not its entirety, is a necessary first step. Fencing reinforced by a rising numbers of border police would deter more illegal immigrants from coming into the country as the economy starts to recovery.

Considering the terrorist threats we face, knowing who comes in our country is not just a reasonable policy, it is necessary to prevent our border from being exploited by our enemies. But even a completely secure border would not solve the public policy problem posed by illegal immigration.

Immigrants come here because they need work, and our businesses need their labor. Border enforcement must be coupled with a plan to allow immigrants who want to come here and work legally to do so.

For some workers, this may mean a temporary, guest worker permit like the one proposed by President Bush. For others, though, permanent residency may be more appropriate. The overall number of legal immigrants permitted each year should be increased.

Millions of immigrants have already come here, bypassing the arcane visa process and sliding across the border undetected. Some Republicans, like presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have proposed instituting polices to encourage these immigrants to “self-deport” back to their own countries.

There is a case to be made that our laws should be enforced and that illegal immigrants who broke the law to come here should be deported. However, the United States is in a bad position to make that case, considering the government has knowingly allowed this problem to continue for years as our businesses benefited from the work of cheap laborers who came to the country illegally.

Some of those workers have gone on to join churches, send their children to public schools and become a part of their community. Displacing them now because they followed the American Dream the best way they could does not make sense morally or economically.

Instead, workers who have been in the U.S. for several years, have no criminal record and agree to pay back taxes and a fine should be allowed to get in line for permanent citizenship. No illegal immigrant should skip legal immigrants on the path to citizenship, but they should eventually be able to earn that right.

Only a federal immigration policy that secures the border, opens more legal venues for foreigners to enter the United States and puts illegal immigrants currently in the country on the path to citizenship will completely solve the immigration problem. Intrusive, harsh bills like HB 56 are just political grandstanding.

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