Eric Stubben is a mechanical engineering sophomore and Mustang News conservative columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
For the last four summers, I worked at a teller station in a bank tucked away in a small valley of northwest Washington. Late every Friday, the rush of farm workers came scrambling in to cash their paychecks after a series of 11-hour work days. Most of them spoke only a few words of English, donned tattered clothes and a friendly smile. Unfortunately, many of them weren’t able to cash their checks because they had a secret to hide: they are illegal immigrants. The current immigration system has failed them, just as it has for millions of others wishing to legally become American citizens.
Immigrants are an integral part of the United States’ agricultural and overall economy as they provide hard-working labor in undesirable jobs for a very low cost. However, reform is necessary with more than 11 million illegal immigrants living within the United States using our taxpayer services without paying income taxes.
Immigration reform has been a menacing issue since President George W. Bush began pushing for reform in 2005 just as Congress became stagnant, narrowly killing the bill.
Many far-right activists will completely discredit the hard work and integrity that illegal immigrants bring to our country by suggesting mass deportation of anybody without legal documentation of citizenship.
Their philosophy, however, is shamefully against conservative values as the cost of mass deportation is estimated to be nearly $300 billion and would uncomfortably cram illegal immigrants into trains and buses across the border. For a party with goals of severe spending cuts and improving their racial image, this is certainly not a good option.
On the flip side, many liberals continue to push for amnesty for all illegal immigrants who are currently residing within our borders. As if the deportation price tag wasn’t large enough, experts estimate that with amnesty, our country would lose $5 trillion over the lifetime of all legalized immigrants. That’s quite the price to pay for a country that’s almost $17 trillion in debt with no signs of slowing down.
The amnesty approach would also send a strong message to Latin Americans living south of the border that it is okay to cross our borders illegally, because once one group is given free citizenship, the same legislation is likely to be used with future generations. Not only is undocumented immigration illegal by federal law, the trip across the border is often uncomfortable — and sometimes fatal — as immigrants squeeze into cars or try to meander their way across the desert and over the Rio Grande into America.
In an agricultural college town such as San Luis Obispo, immigration is a necessity for college diversity and agricultural employment.
The approach on immigration needs to be one that allows not necessarily an easier path to citizenship for immigrants, but a shorter one. Immigrants of all nations are a critical part of the United States economy and are the basis of the formation of our great country.
But, to allow illegal immigrants to gain citizenship in our great country, two key compromises must be made.
A strict code needs to be set barring citizenship to any illegal immigrant convicted of a felony. Not only does a felon become a detriment to society, an illegally-immigrated felon has not paid the taxes that build and maintain our jails, therefore should not be entitled to the services of the American jailing system.
Also, retaining the American Citizenship Test in English is important to not only the functionality of the United States economy, but for the success of immigrants. Although there is no official language in America, English is the profoundly dominant language. To be successful in a global market, immigrants must learn English to communicate with their employers — although many employers are now learning Spanish. For immigrants’ sake, passing the test in English would provide assurance that they are not only able to read, comprehend and answer questions in English, but that they can have an opportunity to thrive in a vastly English society.
As for conservatives, leading the charge in immigration reform could prove invaluable to a right-wing revival. Shortening the waiting period between arrival and citizenship would show a compassion for diversity and minorities while lifting the stigma of a “dominantly white” party, all while creating tax revenue for local and federal governments. Strict laws on felonies along with a “path to citizenship” program can also show a dedication to the safety of current citizens and a drive to see success in immigrants.
For the American Dream to be revived, a Republican-led bipartisan bill needs to be in the works soon. America needs the integrity, drive and ideas that immigrants have brought for centuries to make the United States the best country in the world.
Ignorance in the short term may be easy with a topic as tough as immigration, but kicking the issue down the road will only create more difficult obstacles and blunders in the future.