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Immigration policy blows with the political winds

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Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2001 10:00 pm

Last week, President George W. Bush asked Congress to extend extra time to illegal aliens waiting for a green card.

Called 245i, the extension would allow illegals to avoid a provision of the 1996 immigration law that prohibits re-entry into the U.S. for up to 10 years. Applicants could be legalized here rather than first returning home for an extended period.

Since the re-entry requirement is intended to punish people who violate immigration law, granting a green card without the 10-year wait mocks existing laws. And those new legal-residents who took advantage of the loophole before the April 30 deadline rushed to marry so that they could apply for a green card for their new spouses. That sham debases the sanctity of marriage.

In a nutshell, 245i sums up our immigration process. The national interest is subordinate to whatever is expedient. Shifts in the political wind dictate immigration policy. Joe Guzzardi

Over 640,000 illegal aliens took advantage of 245i before it expired April 30. Another 200,000 wait in the wings for Congress to act.

Congress sanctions illegal immigration, the mainstream media embrace it and religious organizations advocate for it. Supporters claim that it's a victimless crime.

Nothing is further from the truth. Nearly 15 million illegal aliens live in the U.S. Each new law-breaker depresses the wage scale for the working poor. Schools, bursting with non-English speakers, can no longer attend to the needs of those already enrolled. Court and health care costs soar.

Bush's new hero, Mexican President Vicente Fox, champions the cause of Mexican workers in the U.S. Since taking office, Fox has demanded better working conditions for Mexican migrants. Fox created a cabinet-level agency to work on issues for Mexicans in America. His cabinet works tirelessly in Washington to demand higher wages and better living conditions for Mexicans.

Fox's goal is open borders between Mexico and the U.S.

Unfortunately for Mexicans living in Mexico, Fox doesn't have the same concern. In his five months in office, Fox, who has had a lot to say about how the U.S. conducts its affairs, has not spoken one word about the tragic plight of Mexican field workers.

To learn how Mexico treats its laborers, see the front page New York Times story May 6, "At Home, Mexico Mistreats its Migrant Farmhands" by Ginger Thompson. The story is available in the Times archives.

(Editor's note: Access to The New York Times on the Web is free but users must register. Free access to the Times archives is available only for the previous two weeks. The above link will expire May 20.)

According to Thompson, Fox himself was guilty of having children as young as 11 work as vegetable pickers on his family ranch. At first, Fox denied using child labor saying: "This is not an issue for me. It is an issue for other whose names are Fox."

Fox later admitted that his family employed minors and dismissed more than 20 underage children from his ranching and packing plants.

Labor violations and corruption in Mexico are rampant. Mexico's minister of social development, Josefina Vasquez Mota, told Thompson "the lack of respect for the law in the countryside hurts the most vulnerable people in our country."

And sociologist Hubert C. de Grammont added, "It is difficult to try to defend the human rights of migrants in the U.S. when migrants are disrespected and ignored in our own country."

The jornaleros (day laborers), half of whom are women and 30 percent are children under 15, live in tin huts. Each working family gets one room to share among a dozen or more people. Workers are in the field from dawn to dusk earning no more than a few dollars a day.

Thompson quotes Patricio Gomez: "No one defends us. They do not pay us what they promised. And if we are sick, they do not give us the medicine we need."

Given the disgraceful working condition of Mexican farm laborers, it's amazing that Bush isn't chastising Fox instead of trying to cozy up.

Here are some suggestions Bush, Fox and all others who ceaselessly press their agenda for illegal immigrants.

For Bush: Remember that you are elected to carry out the will of the American people. Overwhelmingly, Americans want illegal immigration controlled. Americans do not want amnesties, guest-worker programs, driver's licenses for illegals or open borders.

While hard-working Americans pay $2 a gallon for gas and suffer through rolling blackouts, their tax dollars keep fuel in Air Force One and allow you to run the White House air conditioner full blast. Respect their wishes.

For Fox: Stay home. You have plenty to do in Mexico. Stop telling America how to do things. Let's talk after you've reformed Mexico. By the way, don't call us. We'll call you.

For the mainstream media, religious organizations and other illegal immigration apologists: Instead of encouraging law-breaking, use your very considerable power and influence to lobby to change immigration law in accordance with your views. Instead of encouraging people to subvert the law, use the democratic process.

For Maldef, La Raza, Lulac and other Latino advocacy groups: Stop complaining. Apply your boundless energy and passion to lobby for change in Mexico. Mexicans are treated better north of the border than south.

Remember that if the U.S. were a bad place for Mexicans to live, there wouldn't be 15 million of your countrymen here.

Joe Guzzardi, an instructor at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly opinion column since 1988. He can be reached via e-mail.

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