You don't need to look any farther than this year's U.S. Olympics team to see how immigrants continue to enrich America. Thirty-two naturalized citizens are competing for the U.S. team, an example of how people from throughout the world have come to America to find a home, better themselves and in the process, create a stronger nation. Some people consider the melting pot model an outdated notion, but when these immigrant athletes don their uniforms in Beijing they will be just as American as any of their teammates, and a proud nation will root for them.
Immigration - specifically, illegal immigration - is a hot topic these days. It's an important and complex question: How do we control illegal immigration without turning off the influx of new citizens who will build our country? Unfortunately, it's a a topic that is so sensitive and touches so many emotional buttons that it's difficult to have a reasoned debate. We need to tone down the rhetoric and tune out the emotions first to discuss seriously what's best for our country.
One way to start is to concentrate on discussing illegal immigration, not illegal immigrants. That may sound like semantics, but we believe it's important to focus on the issue, not anecdotes about individuals. As in any group of people, one can easily find both heroes and villains. Those taking a tough line on immigration will find no shortage of examples of people who have entered the United States illegally or overstayed their visas and committed horrible crimes. Likewise, those who argue for a more lenient approach can cite any number of hardworking, law-abiding people who take dirty, low-paying jobs in an effort to help their children live a better life. We can't use a broad brush to demonize or praise any group of 12 million people, and we don't need a debate of competing anecdotes and personalities.
Neither should we allow race, or perceptions of racism, to enter into the debate. Thoughtful anti-illegal immigration activists are careful to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration and to keep ethnicity out of their arguments; people on the other side are engaging in stereotyping if they consider anyone who advocates a strict approach as a racist.
We firmly believe that, throughout our history, immigration has been a positive force for America, bringing in new talent, new energy and new dedication to our country's ideals. That said, we believe illegal immigration is a legitimate concern and there is a need for real immigration reform.
First, we need to better control the flow of immigration for national security, in terms of both terrorism and cross-border criminal activity.
Further, we need to develop an immigration policy that better matches the needs of the American economy.
Finally, we have to be fair to those people who have passed through all the hoops and pursued the dream of American citizenship legally.
THE HOLLAND SENTINEL, Aug. 6