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Immigration Thu Jul 22 2010
I grew up in what is referred to as "extreme" or "deep" South Texas, in a city called McAllen, right on the border with Mexico. For me, illegal immigration is an issue that hits, quite literally, close to home. Having lived in Chicago-land for the past six years, I have been made painfully aware of the ignorance and misunderstanding that people in the North can have regarding this contentious subject. It makes sense; Chicago is roughly 1500 miles away from my home town and, other than time zones, the similarities between both places are pretty non-existent. That is why it is frustrating to hear the incessant barking from both sides about Arizona's recently-passed immigration legislation.
Talking heads are yapping away about "racial profiling," Facebook groups are blowing up with hipsters that are eager to slap on the badge of the downtrodden, and racist bigots are yelling even more about all those Mexicans stealing our jobs. Along with most of the population and Congress, I haven't read the legislation. It sounds controversial, which makes for some sexy television; but is it really equitable to Nazi Fascism, as some have said? Call me a skeptic, but I just don't believe that cops will be running around the street asking every brown person that they see for their green card. That sounds good on MSNBC, but it's just not reality. Arizona may be far away from the pontifications of the Northeastern literati, but it is still a reasonable place and a state in the Union.
Whether or not you believe Arizona's law to be legal or moral, it is indisputable that it has served as a much needed alarm, screaming obnoxiously at a federal government that has consistently slapped at the snooze button far too many times. Is this law the best possible legislation to fix a glaring problem? Probably not, but it's something.
What the country really needs is meaningful, practical immigration reform. A policy change that streamlines what has become a horrific bureaucratic behemoth. Remember in 2006 when congress passed the Border Fence Bill, allocating $700 million to build a fence along the border with Mexico? One of my friends down in Texas is a Border Patrol agent, and I asked him shortly after that whether or not he thought it was a positive thing. "There's already a fence there," he said. "They'll just find a way around this one, too."
People cross the border illegally not because they are villainous crooks looking to rob Americans of their jobs and run back to Mexico with bags of tax dollars as they laugh and twist their waxed mustaches like cartoon maniacs. They cross illegally because crossing legally is a long, onerous process that is damn near impossible to complete. Do people do it? Absolutely, but that doesn't mean it is flawless as it stands. It takes about 15 minutes to cross the border into Mexico from the United States. I've waited more than three hours to come back across, and I'm an American citizen. Even with legal papers, crossing our border is a nightmare. There has to be a better way to effectively regulate immigration so that people are no longer incentivized to cross illegally, and Arizona has - pleasantly or not - raised the awareness necessary to finally bring about some meaningful reform.