State of the Union

Pres. Bush's sixth State of the Union address came and went without any strikingly new thoughts on immigration. Call it pandering to various constituencies or working for compromise, Bush maintained his call for both "laws that are fair" and "borders that are secure"; a temporary-worker program and twice as many Border Patrol backed by "new infrastructure and technology".

Yet his call for "laws that are fair" stops with this worker program, leaving out the full complexity of the insufficiencies of our immigration law -- like the "material support" bar that, for instance, denied asylum to a woman held captive, raped, and forced to work by a rebel group in West Africa by saying she aided terrorists. (Several such instances have been reported.)

More importantly, it ignores the paralyzing failings of our immigration system itself, so backlogged and politically prejudiced that it fails those who actually qualify under our stringent laws of admission, either through the delay of justice or the unreasonable discretion of judges. Should a man sit in prison for months, even years, awaiting adjudication of his claim for political asylum? Should a U.S.-citizen child, born and raised in this country, whose mother has outstayed a visa, face the fate of either (1) deportation to a destitute and unruly land she's never visited, where medical care is impossible and warring factions use rape or amputation of children to fight their battles, or (2) life as a ward of the state and an ostensible orphan? (I've worked on several cases just like that myself.)

A temporary-worker program would certainly prove a relief valve of sorts, allowing the natural cycles of worker migration to resume, but it's not enough -- particularly if it proves to be the program that's temporary, as the official transcript of the President's speech implies, and not the workers. (Of course that implication might result from poor punctuation, writing "temporary worker program" instead of "temporary-worker program", rather than poor policy making.)

In his address the President also called for workplace enforcement of immigration laws, just as his executive branch announced several hundred more such arrests and deportations this week. From the West Coast to the East, immigrants were taken into custody for alleged violations. No charges have been brought against the people who employed them.

Pres. Bush demanded we resolve the status of the undocumented "without animosity", a noble thought indeed. Yet we continue to treat undocumented migrants as dangerous criminals or enemy combatants of some sort, even without proof of wrongdoing, as last week's report reminded us. And even the quickest survey of commentary from anonymous writers online to t.v. personalities to elected legislators reveals the wide spread of a fallacious nightmare in which murderous, malicious hordes of foreigners swarm into our country to destroy it.

The President also said that, "our country requires an immigration system worthy of America". Is such xenophobic behavior worthy of the USA? Are walled, medieval cities worthy of the land of the free and the home of the brave? Was war-torn Berlin? Soldier-lined borders? Federal agents kicking down doors at 4 a.m. to take people away? Are these the things America deserves?

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