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It's time to draw line on immigration

May 20, 2006|by Jim Leatherman/Williamsport

To the editor:

Every time I go through the checkout register at a store, or key in a number on my phone and I am asked the question, "English or Spanish," I wonder how that famous German scientist, Werner Von Braun, or the Italian adventurer, Christopher Columbus, or countless law-abiding citizens from other non-English speaking nations, would react if they were alive and were to go through the Wal-Mart checkout.

If it were me, I feel I might ask, "Where is my nation and language among this list of options?" Assuming that the only obvious choice would be English, I would wonder, "If there is a choice, why is the only other choice, 'Spanish'?"

This nation must realize that we can no longer afford to put out the welcome mat to "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses," etc. Twenty or more years ago, we could afford to accept the annual quota of legal immigrants to this country, but those days are long past.

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If 11 million illegal immigrants or more are already in this country at last estimate, it is time now to close off the borders, north and south, to all but a regulated number. All of our borders must be effectively controlled, not by fences, but by whatever amount of manpower and equipment it takes to do the job.

If 11 million are already here and we do nothing about it, the question should be asked, "How many more or what next?" We cannot afford to give automatic citizenship to babies born to illegal parents. Those babies should retain citizenship in the country of origin of either of the parents unless at least one of them has become naturalized. All future applicants for citizenship must successfully pass a basic test for speaking, writing and reading everyday English before being allowed to enter this country. For those 11 million who are already here, there is a price to pay for breaking the law. If they have not already taken steps to do so, they must immediately sign up for English classes. Failure to do so or to complete the program within a specified reasonable period will result in deportation. When we ask "English or Spanish" everywhere, we encourage non-English speaking persons to put little effort into learning English, the language that Americans customarily speak.

As usually happens when some abuse the law, the majority pays. In this situation, the usual benefits afforded to legal immigrants or citizens such as food stamps, low-income housing, etc. should be denied to all illegal immigrants. Every other measure to discourage rather than encourage illegal immigration should be implemented without delay.

Two important steps would help alleviate the labor shortage that is so often used as the "reason" why illegal immigrants are essential to this nation's economy. The common story is that they only take jobs that few American workers will accept. First, a change in the rules pertaining to eligibility for unemployment benefits must occur.

Current laws basically say that if a worker has been laid off from his/her usual occupation and has been employed for a specified number of quarters, then he or she is eligible for a weekly benefit based upon their previous wages and federal law.

In addition, they must presently be physically and mentally ready, willing and available for work and actively seeking it by documenting their employment search.

The search for work normally consists of those occupational fields in which the worker has been working, pays a wage comparable to the customary prevailing wage in the area, and is within a reasonable commuting distance of home.

I recommend a change here that will require the worker to accept work that is available, he/she is physically qualified to perform, and for which the wage is 60 percent or more of the previous employment wage. Then give the worker a partial benefit that will, together with the wage, equal their previous pay.

Second, high school juniors and seniors across this nation are now required to perform a specified minimum number of hours of community service work in order to graduate. While adhering to age-appropriate safety measures, I believe that many of these students could be effectively utilized in many of the occupations that illegal immigrants currently fill.

Together, with changes in unemployment benefit requirements and community service work of high school students, this need could possibly be reduced or eliminated and the incentive that draws illegal immigrants to this nation would, hopefully, evaporate.

Jim Leatherman

Williamsport

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