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Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Are we ready to talk about immigration?
I had a fascinating conversation with Tom Tancredo in the CNN green room in Washington Monday. Tancredo is a Republican congressman from Colorado and immigration is his issue. He wants to close the borders and deport people that are in the country illegally.

Tancredo is also a long shot candidate for president. He knows the odds of him being elected president are slim-to-none, but his campaign is all about keeping immigration on the political radar.

"Most people are uncomfortable talking about the immigration issue," he said. "They want it to go away. I am here to force them to talk about it." He was speaking about the other presidential candidates, but it got me thinking: Are we comfortable talking about immigration?

Race, class, tradition, money. All in play.

Can we be concerned about our changing neighborhoods and schools without feeling like racists? Is this nation of immigrants ready to talk honestly about immigration?

-- By Jim Spellman, CNN Producer
Posted By CNN: 9:32 AM ET
I have no problem with anyone regarding there race, religion. financial status or whatver. If they want to live here that's long as they do it legally and not try to sneak in and live off of us and pay no taxes or anything. There's enough of that going on with the people who are citizens...
Posted By Cynthia, Covington, Ga. : 10:31 AM ET
Our country has become too politically correct and now everyone is afraid to say anything. Always afraid of being sued or protested against.
Posted By Wynona, San Diego : 10:39 AM ET
What most Americans seem to want is for immigrants to follow our laws defining legal entry to the US. If someone is willing to break the law to enter the country, what other laws will they be willing to break?

Try moving to another country from the US; it is extremely difficult. The regulations governing admittance are non-negotiable. Isn't that was being a sovereign nation is about?
Posted By Deb, Richmond VA : 10:41 AM ET
You left one out, Jim - breaking federal laws.

A law that applies to one group but not to another is a law for nobody. How long is this hypocrisy to going to continue? Why be comitted to a futile law when the tools to change it are in our hands?

There is a parallel to the Iraq war funding. Congressmen who don't want to be "unpopular" are afraid to come out against funding; and Congressmen who are afraid of losing votes won't come out in favor of border laws and tightening immigration.
Posted By xtina - chicago IL : 10:48 AM ET
Aren't the middle class, and all the higher ups in Mexico glad these people left? I don't understand why we Americans are made out to be the bad guys, for giving tems of million people a chance denied to them in their native country.

I've never heard "Thanks."
Posted By Paul Giovanelli, Chicago : 11:15 AM ET
No, this country as a whole is not ready to talk about immigration or race. Neither side is ready! I speak many languages and people cannot guess my nationality (Latin). This allows me to be a shadow in a fragmented society.

I've heard ALL kinds of ethnic groups make negative statements against the others. None of us are exempt from this. Silencing and political correctedness is an insuficient band-aid over a very deep wound that is dividing this country.

The comments I hear from both sides hurt me a lot, and I will leave this country to study medicine in Europe. There is a brain drain happening in this country. Whereas uneducated workers flood the borders. The repercussions of this will be felt in the future. The racial tension is palpable, implied or expressed, but I feel it daily.

Are we in the front steps of a cultural revolution?
Posted By Martha, Surprise, Arizona : 11:39 AM ET
Oh, we will talk about immigration, but we won't do much about it.

Like any other wedge issues, it makes good rhetoric around election time and keeps us from discussing more important problems. When it comes down to facts and the notion that we might have to pay more to have a new roof put on the house or a few cents are added to price of produce, we'll happily close our eyes, let the illegal immigrants go back into the shadows and pat ourselves on the back until the next election cycle.
Posted By liz, Montgomery, AL : 11:45 AM ET
Yes, we need to talk about this honestly. That debate needs to include receognition of the fact that big business wants lots of immigration because it keeps wages down and gives them more customers. We also need to talk about the impact of our fast population growth, fueled by immigration, on the environment and our natural resources. I also think this country should be directing foreign aid to help the countries of Central America prosper so people won't feel compelled to leave their homes.
Posted By Phyllis, Burlington, VT : 11:57 AM ET
Jim, Immigration is such a complex issue, from legal to moral. We have not protected our borders so the illegal immigration is out of control. We have allowed big business to exploit illegals as they are not paid a decent wage.
Other governmnets have not addressed poverty and unemployment in their countries and encourage illegal immingration to wealthier countries.
Now, the American government is starting to clamp down and this will destroy families so we are dealing with a moral issue.
Immigration reform has to start with protecting our borders to stop the migtration but a comprehensive immigration policy affecting illegals who have been here for years has to have some component of compassion.
As a nation, we could try to help Mexico especially, develop a comprehensive employment plan for its own people.
I am 70 years old and a 2nd generation American and am thankful that my Lithuanian grandparents were wise enough to legally migrate here in the early 1900's.
Posted By Judy Stage Brooklyn MI : 12:00 PM ET
We are living in a decidedly upscale land that borders on what is essentially a third world country. What do we expect? Illegal immigration has been ignored for years and will continue to be ignored as long as worthless and gutless politicians are in the pockets of big business interests. If we could just get someone in office who has the fortitude to go forward with enforcement of our laws and stand up to the wealthy conglomerates, maybe, just maybe, some progress would come about. Having lived in Europe for a few years, I can honestly say that a guest worker program might just work here. Of course it would have to be strictly controlled, along with tight border security and other measures. Mr. Tancredo seems to have the right idea but he will become a casualty of the bottom line just like all the other office holders who came before him.
If we were to close our southern border completely and deport every illegal alien here now, not one of us would like the price of a salad or anything else for that matter. I'm no fan of these law-breaking sneaks, just a realist who lives in the southwest and observes the nonsense on a daily basis.
Posted By A. Roy Olson, Tucson AZ : 12:01 PM ET
Is anyone else bothered by the protesters using May Day, the biggest socialist holiday of the year as the day for their marches?
What does this say about their agenda?
Posted By Mark: Shreveport, LA : 12:13 PM ET
I used to wonder what motivated immigrants to come here from Mexico only to live in overcrowded, run-down housing and to work long hours at low paying jobs. That is, until I actually went to some villages in rural Mexico and saw the living conditions there - unpaved roads, shacks with tin roofs, mud floors, and no electricity. I now have greater sympathy and respect for those who come here to work hard and provide a better life for themselves and their families. Illegal immigration to the U.S. cannot be controlled until the Mexican economy improves.
Posted By Barbara, Los Angeles, CA : 12:17 PM ET
Is this nation of immigrants ready to talk honestly about immigration?

Short answer to long question - no.

The use of economics ('they're stealing jobs from Americans' - I'm looking at YOU, Lou Dobbs) is a cover for less noble fears, just as fear of AIDS was mobilized to justify already-existing homophobia.

It's Us versus Them, and it helps the fear-mongers that They are physically distinguishable from Us by skintone and accent.
Posted By Arachnae, Sterling VA : 12:24 PM ET
Hello Jim,
We are the great melting pot of the world. I say if immigrants want in, let them in. They must be informed that we have certain rules in place here. You have to support the government by paying taxes, you must learn english, ( and hopefully teach us spanish), You must use your skills and participate in your community to bring this country up as a whole.
The United States gives to a fault. Remember that everything taken must be replaced.
For those who want to come for a better life to work and raise children in a safe environment, then let them come on! Just remember as Americans you must obey the rules of your new country. We must learn to work side by side in harmony and build this great nation of OURS!
I certainly hope we can live beside immigrants and send our children to school with them without feeling racist. I hope and pray we are past that point in our own development.

"Remember, remember always, that all of us. . . are decendents from immigrants and revolutionists."
Franklin D. Roosevelt~
Posted By Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX : 12:31 PM ET
There really is no immigration issue. This country has immigration laws that we must all abide by. No group - no one period - should think it's their right that if they come to this country by crossing borders illegally or obtaining VISA's and not leaving upon its expiration, should have the right to demand citizenship. My parents immigrated here 36 years ago legally. In turn they sponsored their siblings for citizenship - some who waited 10 years for the process to be complete. I also have several friends who came here via Student VISA's. Upon graduation, they went through a lot just to find a job where the company would sponsor they're stay here. It's not easy but it can be done.
Posted By Missy, Los Angeles, CA : 12:37 PM ET
Yes, the racial tension is there and palpable. I think a lot of us are getting *tired* of all the illegals' demands and belligerence. They don't feel the USA is "their" country. As one blogger put it: "We never hear THANKS from the illegal Mexicanos." They just simply ignore the rest of us and live their "Mexican" lives here in our land. The burgeoning Hispanic/Latino birth rates are frightening to many Anglo/White Americans, who see the "browning of America" as undesirable, since they "do NOT assimilate." May God help us all. I was DELIGHTED to see Mexico City ALLOW ABORTION!! Dios Mio!! (dear God!) Finally, some birth control! The Catholic Church needs to PROMOTE birth control. Silly "il Papa!" (the Pope) Use condoms!
Posted By Mark, Sacramento, CA : 12:50 PM ET
Dear Jim,
I have always felt comfortable talking about immigration, or abortion, or any number of controversial subjects without feeling like a racist or whathaveyou.
I've figured out that if someone is calling me a racist in an immigration debate, or any other name for that matter, it's because their own arguement has fallen short.

The problems with people immigrating here illegally are not about race, but about resources, equality, law, and security.

Everyone knows this country was built by immigrants for themselves and other immigrants, but it was built with the idea in mind that all immigrants coming here and staying here for any great length of time would come here by legal means, open means, and honest means, to make an honest living and earning an honest days' pay. With the intent to become U.S. citizens. Contracts were drawn up for those who didn't. Illegal immigrants ahve signed no such contract and make no such attempt. They feel that if they stay here long enough we are soemhow obligated to give them citizenship.

When the colonists decided it was high time to become a country, they did so having a sense that they shared certain things, and had certain things in common, even with their great differences. They wanted every oppressed person to get a fair shot in life and that's who they invited here.

They did not do so without caution though. Even the statue of Liberty reads, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses..."
It doesn't say, send us your criminals, con-artists and professional layabouts. America has always done it's best to help those in need, but that does not mean our kindness should be mistook for weakness or gullibility, nor does it mean we are a land of 'unlimited' resources.
Posted By James Foley Kamiah, Idaho : 1:43 PM ET
To Mark in Sacramento,

I'm a 33 year old pasty white man and I neither fear nor am I averse to anyone having children. Anyone. Everyone is pretty harmless in that regard.

Browning of america... what a laugh. I lived in southern Californis for 30 years prior to coming to Idaho and I speak Spanish, Tagalog [filipino] and even a lil Russian. Guess what? I'm still just as white as ever.

I could care less if America becomes an all black nation or an all asian nation or so on and so forth, as long as they came here legally or were born or naturalized here.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, it isn't about race. It's about resources, security, equality, and the law. No racism, no hatred, and no support for the KKK. As a matter of fact, LEGAL immigration is an affrontery to the groups like the KKK because while they can rail against ILLEGAL immigration with whatever hairbrained idea they can muster, they have no recourse for legal immigrants. So, if racist groups or people are screamin at ILLEGAL immigrants, they're barkin up the wrong tree.

Posted By James Foley Kamiah, Idaho : 1:55 PM ET
"Remember, remember always, that all of us. . . are descendents from immigrants and revolutionists."
Franklin D. Roosevelt~

BETTY ANN, NACOGDOCHES, TX couldn't have said it any better. I agree, and what she has said is what we call consideration for others. We all are after all living on the same planet and as a Chicano(Mexican-American) whose parents came here three years before I was born feel saddened and disappointed on how lately people are not looking at the bigger picture to work together other things that are tearing our "countries" apart which is on the same world.

MARK, SACRAMENTO, CA I feel saddened and hurt by your harsh words. Not everyone that is here “illegally” is as you call it “Mexicano”; there are many other countries that also come here. If you think that “Mexicans” are “browning American”, I disagree with you; there are other things happening in this country; not only county but this world that is causing “the browning of America”. Negative attitude, not considering your neighbor, not learning how to get along and consider one another; I definitely feel tension more each day and I am worried for how our children are going to be a few years from now learning from this sort of behavior.

Posted By Magdalena, South Orange County, CA : 1:56 PM ET
We're ready to talk honestly, but are people ready to hear? You try to talk honestly about illegal immigration, or legal immigration, and you are accused of racism and all other manner of sins.

It's pretty simple. We've got a great country here. It'd be nice to help every deserving person in the world, but there's two problems - first, we simply don't have the room, and second, that destroys the host country. And I don't count lawbreakers as among the deserving anyway.

We need to decide who will be best for us to admit, and let some in based on need as well - for which - well, let's just say that plenty of people in other countries illegally immigrate to Mexico because it is rich relative to them! If we're going by need, Mexico is not it. Nor is Cuba. Nor is Canada.

The United States is not invulnerable. We need to protect our country - and there's only so fast we can take new people in, and only so many people we can hold. This isn't the 1940's, when the country was big and empty.
Posted By Lisa, Bothell, WA : 2:04 PM ET
just look every day at the clogged and jammed freeways full of humans worker bees driving home at night. way too many people. some say we still have plenty, plenty of space and room. i think we are already like too many "rats in a cage" nipping and biting at each other due to overcrowding. we have more people than we need already. no more immigrants, thanx.
Posted By Mary, Sacramento, CA : 3:04 PM ET
The title header is not accurate. America was founded on immigration. We are and have always been ready to talk immigration. Are we ready to talk ILLEGAL immigration? I say no. Not now, not ever. You want in, fill out the forms and get in line.
Posted By Burt, Manhattan : 3:05 PM ET
Deb from Richmond, VA asked about how difficult it is, to move from the US to another country. I have seen a number of executive transfers from the US to Canada, Europe and Japan be executed and completed (returned home) before other foreign colleagues, applying for US green cards, got accepted.
Posted By Gary Dee, Portland, Oregon : 3:19 PM ET
Since when has this nation been ready to talk about any subject honestly and absent of loaded rhetoric? The fact is that no matter what we do, until the situation in Mexico improves, people will do anything they can to come here. We need to stop the bickering and really take a look at trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA. We might not like it, but the only way to fix this problem might be to invest in Mexico.
Posted By Stacy, St. Louis, MO : 3:21 PM ET
"Just Say No To Mexico." (That is Mexico north of the border, as in "Mexifornia," Mexizona, Mexirado, etc.)
Posted By Sam, Houston, TX : 3:28 PM ET
Can anybody please tell me the status/progress on the 700-mile stretch of the "Great Wall of Mexico"?!? :-) Thank you, fellow Bloggers! Wiw! This is a lively debate here today! Send me a website/link or something.
Posted By Angela, Austin, TX : 3:34 PM ET
The last amnesty took place in the 80's and the criterion for legal status was providing proof of residency, such as a utility bill or rental agreement, not whether taxes had been paid. This is what's wrong with the system. All of the politicians will say that unpaid taxes will need to be paid, but most of their income is on a cash basis. We taxpayers should not be fooled!

In absolutely no way should amnesty be granted again. The size of the current illegal population highlights the failure of our federal politicians to do anything to mitigate the problem. Why should children of non citizens be granted American citizenship. This antiquated policy was put in place to grant citizenship to the children of slaves who had no status. It's not meant to reward someone to fly/drive/swim into the US, abuse our hospitals and reward their children. Our policies are crazy!

We need our politicians to get tough. No citizenship, no schools, no non-emergency benefits to those in the US illegally. Further, anyone in the US should NEVER be granted legitimacy -- no residency, no citizenship. If we enacted such measures we would not be in the position we are currently.

We need to understand what will happen to our country with the volume of legal and illegal immigrants. We Americans are the most wasteful people on the face of the planet. Anyone coming here expects the same excessive lifestyle. The UN studies show that we will be the third most populous nation in the next 50 years (I may be a bit off on this one), and it should scare us. Is this really what we want? Let's start an intelligent, not emotional, discussion on immigration. Political correctness and the fear of being called a racist should be overlooked. This is the standard rebuttal on the pro-illegal amnesty group.

Let's leave our children a better America, and not take the short-sighted viewpoint of our elected officials.

Deb G.
Denver, Colorado
Posted By Deb Denver, CO : 3:38 PM ET
Why should children of non citizens be granted American citizenship. This antiquated policy was put in place to grant citizenship to the children of slaves who had no status.

Please - assaults on the Fourteenth Amendment's citizenship definitions should be seen for what they are - an attempt to create a caste system in the US such as applies in much of the non-democratic world. From wikipedia:

The provisions in Section 1 have been interpreted to the effect that children born on United States soil, with very few exceptions, are U.S. citizens. This type of guarantee—legally termed jus soli, or "right of the territory"— does not exist in most of Western Europe, Asia, India, Sri Lanka or the Middle East, although it is part of English common law and is common in the Americas.

Without the definition of birthright citizenship, very few of your ancestors, most of whom immigrated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, would ever have been able to achieve citizenship and the US would be a very different place today, much more like Kuwait, where foreign labor can work for generations without the prospect of being able to have a say in their own governance.

Is that who you want the US to emulate? the monarchies and sheikdoms of the middle east?

And yet many on the Far Right have been launching attacks on one of the foundations of our pluralistic society, using atavistic fear of Hispanics to try to establish their special privileges. This agenda needs more media scrutiny.
Posted By Arachnae, Sterling VA : 4:10 PM ET
To Mark in Sacramento, have you ever wondered what you would have done if YOU had been born in Mexico, and there wasn't much you could do to improve your living situation, or your families', other than get out of there, and you don't have the money or resources to immigrate legally. Don't you think you would do the same? Thank God I was born in the USA to US born parents and legally immigrated grandparents, but I have no doubt I would have done everything in my power to get here if it had been otherwise. I live in a border city, and no where is the cost of hosting illigal immigrants more clear than here, but I feel nothing more than respect and admiration for the vast majority of them who are hardworking and honest, and take jobs most of us wouldn't dream of taking.
Posted By Laura, Laredo, TX : 4:34 PM ET
I lived in Los Angeles for 20 years. When I see tourism commercials for California where they play up the blonde surfer image, I have to laugh. Where are the pictures of the illegals standing 3 deep at every home improvement store, nursery and gas station all day long looking for work? Where are the pictures of the sidewalks at these stores where these men relieve themselves because there are no bathrooms? Where are the pictures of the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of stolen shopping carts littering the streets because the illegals steal the carts to transport their groceries home? Where are the pictures of the illegal families using stolen shopping carts as baby strollers? Where are the pictures of illegals expanding the garages of their relatives' houses so they can have a dozen or more people live in the garage without plumbing so they can urinate and deficate all night on their neighbors' wall? Where are the pictures of the roosters running around the backyards because the families living there are now sponsoring cockfights to earn money?

While living in Los Angeles, if I heard any language other than Spanish, I would turn around excitedly to see who was speaking. But when I heard Spanish, I always knew what I was going to see. A mother with an abundance of very young children only half-dressed, no shoes, and crying. And much more often than not, that is what I saw. Are there educated, well-off Mexicans? Of course. But they're not the ones flocking here.

If anyone reading this thinks I'm a racist, let me ask you this. If your neighbors allowed 12 relatives to live on mattresses in their backyard for several years and they urinated all over your wood fence during the night, how would you like it? If your neighbors decided to start a sausage-making business to earn money and stapled sausage links to their garage roof (which, by the way, rodents like to snack on), would you like that? If your neighbors used stolen grocery carts as law furniture and frequently slept in it on the front lawn, how would you feel about that? If you sold your house and had to lose $60,000 because your property values in your once nice neighborhood went down, how would you like that? I'm sure you wouldn't. I'm sure it would make you angry. And would you be angry at Swedish people or people from South Africa or Polish people? No. Your anger would be directed towards those who were causing you problems.

So when I talk about illegal immigration, I'm talking about those who come here illegally from Mexico. Those who have both their hands out to accept welfare, free medical care, free education, but will use those same hands to slap our culture, our laws or our language in the face. It seems others who immigrate here legally show this country the respect it deserves.

Take a picture of that, why don't you?
Posted By Linda H. Las Vegas, NV : 4:40 PM ET
I wonder how many of the responders here actually know what legal immigration into the US entails, if, and that is a big if, such an attempt succeeds.

Berating somebody for attempting to create better conditions of living for themselves and their family should be reserved only to people who lived through similar experience.
Posted By Michael, New York : 5:46 PM ET
Arachnae did a great service by showing us (and reminding those of us whose civics class was oh so long ago) the 14th Amendment, one of the innovations that made America what it is (Or was?) Not granting citizenship automatically to those born in country is NOT an innovation like some of you think ... it's old thinking. I hope that this isn't a symptom of the US becoming an 'old' country after 235 years.
Posted By Gary Dee, Portland, Oregon : 5:47 PM ET
We are afraid to face the fact that we as Americans, sometimes regardless of race, are afraid of people who are different. Many people see Latinos as ugly, poor, uneducated threats to our American way of life. We need to be honest and stop pretending that we care whether Latinos are here legally or not. I know of illegal immigrants that pay taxes, are involved in their communities, would be too embarassed to ever accept any federal help, and want to be American more than anything. We are willing to let them pick our fruit, hand us our french fries, wash our cars and even watch our children, but in general, we have a dislike for the stereotype we assume them to be. If only we could truly walk in their shoes to understand who they are and the choices they make as feeling human beings.
Posted By Joanne, Newport Beach, CA : 6:07 PM ET
It saddens me to see such a powerful and wealthy nation as that of ours completely fold to miss information, fear, stereo types and a feeling of lack of abundance.

Are we really that dumb to believe that color, place of birth, language spoken or legal status really separate us.

please think about this for a second and your little issues will b just that. little issues.

We are a gigantic sphere flying thru space with one type of beings on it. HUMANS.

It is dumbed down society and poor minds that tell us we are different because of language, color etc. we are not. We are all the exact same. Human beings living our lives as best as we can with the tools we were given. we all strive to have the best life possible, we all would do what ever it takes to make sure our loved ones are well taken care off, the only difference is how hard some of us have to work for what we have. some of us were born in to our jobs, others went to school for years, others traveled thousands of miles to get there.regardless of, no struggle is lesser than the other. we should see that and realize that that person across the way the one we look at funny because we think it's different than us, it's really just the same.

Posted By Caesar -Los Angeles, CA : 3:26 AM ET
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