The Gordian Knot of illegal immigration

One of the most contentious issues of the last 20 years has yet again come to the forefront, leading to massive protests in many of the major cities of this country. This outcry is because of two new bills, one introduced in the House of Representatives and the other in the Senate. Both claim to solve, or at least alleviate, the problem of illegal immigration in the United States. And yet, ironically, these two potential acts of legislation could not possibly be more different.

The bill coming through the House is, to be blunt, rather draconian. It proposes to make any person found in the country illegally guilty of a felony as well as anyone who abates their living in the United States. The plan also calls for renewed consideration of closing the border between the United States and Mexico, perhaps even bringing back the age-old idea of building a giant wall on our side of the border.

On the other hand, the bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee is a glorified amnesty program, although its sponsors are loathed to refer to it in such a manner. The bill would streamline the immigration process and allow for those who have been living in the country illegally but have been productive members of society to be able to apply for citizenship without any fear of deportation, while also allowing for 400,000 additional guest workers to enter the country each year.

Both bills have their downsides. The House version would reinforce general world opinion of the United States as a bully toward the third world while also allowing for the excess labor pool in much of Central and South America to be exploited via the outsourcing of American jobs. Not to mention that as written, the House legislation would make it quite difficult for skilled (i.e. college-educated) immigrants to enter the country.

Conversely, there’s a reason why it’s called illegal immigration, and do we really want to be rewarding people for being adept at breaking the law as the Senate version, to an extent, does.

Unsurprisingly for such an issue, there is no real political consensus, with (according to the latest AP/Ispos poll), 56 percent of Americans supporting some variant of either amnesty or a guest worker program. However, the issue is bizarre in that it cuts across partisan lines with 62 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans in support. And with President Bush and Ted Kennedy on one side of an issue fighting against Bill Frist and Ted Strickland on the other, the chances of a solution being forced through by one political party seems remote.

It seems as though the overall result of this legislation will be gridlock, leading to immigration reform being punted to the 110th Congress.

However, we hope that if either of these plans were to be passed into law it would be the Senate version.

The simple truth of the matter is that even if the government truly desired to expel every illegal immigrant, they don’t have the resources to do so. And furthermore it seems rather harsh to kick out more than 11 million people, many of whom are law-abiding taxpayers, without whom the country’s economy would almost certainly have stagnated.

If they don’t deserve a chance to become full-fledged citizens, we don’t know who does.

The above is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.