Opinion / Political

Answer the door


What is a promise? As Horton, who heard a Who, would say, “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful 100%.”

It has come down to the responsibility of our leader, our Horton, to preserve a promise made to a group much like the unheard people of Whoville. The immigration system in the United States is broken and stagnant. It has come down to the responsibility of our leader, our Horton, to listen to the pleas of more than 3% of an unaccounted-for population. But to be deaf in one ear, to the conservatives and those legal Americans against illegal immigrants, would be an even greater injustice. In the last four years, Congress has failed to place a bill on the President’s desk regarding immigration reform, a subject that the president had planned to address since his race for the presidency in 2008. It seems that now, the voices of the unaccounted for are louder and more prevalent than those of the opposed.

President Obama’s executive order on immigration reform, issued in November of last year, is one of necessity. It is cohesive, coherent, and well-rounded, appealing not only to undocumented immigrants, but also to our industries and our low-wage competing Americans. It isn’t a plan that grants amnesty to five million illegal immigrants. Instead, it reorganizes the USCIS, creating greater eligibility for child immigrants and mothers, securing our borders, and creating tax penalties for those immigrants living in the Unites States for over five years. It isn’t just reform; it’s cleaning up.

By washing away under-the-table dirty business practices, hard-working Americans are reaping just as many benefits as immigrants are, if not more. Because undocumented workers usually work for a below minimum wage paycheck, they are directly competing with Americans for the same low-paying jobs. Now, these previously undocumented workers will have the ability to ask for normal wages and will thus prevent a portion of undercutting and steep competition that occurs in our industry, prompting a spike in actual wages in response to demand. This in effect levels the playing field.

The United States, like it or not, is founded on many basic promises. Promises of security, promises of opportunity, promises of freedom, promises of sanctuary, and promises of liberty- available only to a select group of people: citizens. People who pay taxes, vote, and fulfill their civic duties qualify under that title. They have “earned” their right to these promises, whether that is through strong family connections or simply being lucky enough to have been born here. Why is it then, that these promises do not apply to undocumented immigrants, who have arguably worked harder for their American dream than anyone else?

It’s easy to dismiss people who entered the United States illegally as having taken advantage of our system, to criticize them for infiltrating our borders, and to accuse them of stealing American jobs. Why don’t they just wait and become citizens the legal way? Apply for a green card, and enter the United States. In pre-1965 America, this would have been a logical question. But since then, our eligibility system has swayed from being based on race and origins to being focused on connections and employability. Quite frankly, it has become nearly impossible for those who do not have a college degree, close relatives with citizenship, or permanent residence to enter our country legally. In some cases, it can take upwards of 20 years to properly and legally acquire stay in the United States.

Quota numbers for such attempts are significantly lower than the demand to enter the country legally, and, though our economy continues to grow, organizations such as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) do not. Accounting for the 10.9 million illegal immigrants in our country, roughly 2.7% of our population is composed of those who either overstayed their visas, infiltrated the border, or lost their sponsorship. 2.7% of the population do not pay taxes, nor does 2.7% of the population reap the benefits of social security, insurance or, now, the federal health care system.

With Obama’s new executive order, the United States will grant security to those who deserve it. Programs such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will help children and mothers secure a place in America, where they can begin the process of earning their citizenship. 1 in every 2 Mexican and Central American Immigrants will qualify, mostly mothers and their children. The President’s plan only really affects those who have settled here for more than 5 years, and doesn’t apply to anyone looking to enter the country in the future. It isn’t one to pave the roads for undocumented immigrants on a fast tracked lane to citizenship; it’s a plan that gives them the right to merit a settled, grounded and stable existence in the U.S.

A stable existence however, in a not so stable economy, in a not so stable country may be somewhat of a dream. But neither will result from the deportation of 11 million immigrants. If the United States wants to be a beacon of freedom, liberty, and opportunity for the world, then it needs to stand behind reform of a system that has allowed so many to penetrate its borders. Cross it once, shame on you; cross it 11 million times, shame on us.

President Obama has made it clear that he is sticking to a promise made during his first campaign: to fix a system that is “out-of-date and badly broken; a system that’s holding us back, instead of helping us grow our economy and strengthen our middle class.” If anything, President Obama is standing by his beliefs and backing a promise. After all, an elephant’s faithful 100%, even if he’s also a donkey.

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