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Legalizing the illegals not answer

Guy W. Farmer

Could it be that the newly reorganized U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has finally decided to enforce federal immigration laws? Well, maybe. Let’s examine the facts.

Two recent events offer some hope that Congress and the White House will actually encourage the INS to carry out two of its most important functions: Deporting illegal immigrants and punishing employers who knowingly hire them. All too often politicians of both major parties pander to Hispanics and other foreign-born voters by ignoring illegal immigration and catering to so-called “immigration advocates,” like Reno Gazette-Journal columnist Emma Sepulveda and her misguided followers, who want to legalize the illegals and refuse to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration. To them, illegal immigrants are “undocumented workers” who enjoy the same rights as legal residents of the U.S.

But lately, the INS has taken a couple of actions that give hope to those of us who believe that immigrants should obey the law like everyone else, and don’t think that illegals should be rewarded for breaking the law. On Oct. 23 INS agents arrested 250 illegal immigrants, many of them from Eastern Europe, in raids on 60 Wal-Mart stores in 21 states not including Nevada. Wal-Mart has acknowledged that it is the target of a federal grand jury investigation looking into alleged violations of overtime, Social Security and workers compensation laws. Does this surprise anyone?

The only surprise is that the Feds actually moved against America’s largest retailer. Usually, INS agents simply capture and deport the illegals without taking action against the employers, who often contribute to political campaigns (in case you hadn’t noticed). But in this case, Wal-Mart could face hefty fines if convicted of immigration law violations. It all depends upon how vigorously federal prosecutors pursue the case.

Closer to home, a Carson City business owner and two of his managers were fined $119,000 in Reno federal court late last month for knowingly employing at least 65 illegal immigrants at their industrial zone manufacturing plant, Stonewear Inc. Business owner Ben VanDenbossche and managers Ray Bowers and Eugene Soulier were fined after they pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful employment of illegal aliens in “reckless disregard” of federal immigration laws. Dozens of illegals Ð most of whom were deported to Mexico the next day — were arrested during a July 2002, raid at the Lockheed Way plant. It was the largest INS raid ever in Northern Nevada.

But Stonewear Inc. wasn’t the only local business to be targeted by the Feds. Last year, the U.S. Labor Department ordered five Carson City companies – Sierra Truss, Eagle Valley Golf Course, LSP Products, Taco Bell and Wyman-Gordon – to pay back wages to their illegal workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act. When employers are investigated and illegals are found, the workers must be fired, but they are still owed back wages. I wonder if those companies were fined for hiring illegals “off the payroll” and paying them in cash.

Ms. Sepulveda would probably argue that I’m being unfair to the “undocumented workers.” As she wrote in a recent RG-J column, “There are millions of undocumented individuals in this land and they are not going anywhere.” Apparently, she thinks we should throw up our hands and ignore the problem by legalizing the illegals and giving them driver’s licenses. “Obviously, our streets will be safer if everyone is a qualified driver,” she observed. So if someone is able to sneak into our country, we should reward him/her with a driver’s license. Brilliant!

Prominent African-American intellectual Thomas Sowell commented on this issue recently in a column titled “Legalizing the Illegals.” Noting that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, was upset by the Wal-Mart raids, Sowell warned that “there are several bills currently before Congress to make ‘undocumented workers’ legal residents. After that, they are on the road to citizenship. In other words, come here illegally and we will make you legal!” What sense does that make?

“Some of this is just shameless politics, in utter disregard of what most Americans want and oblivious to the irreversible changes that massive illegal immigration introduces into American society,” Sowell continued, adding that “any child born to an illegal alien automatically becomes an American citizen – and all of that child’s relatives back in Mexico or elsewhere then have the inside track to come here legally.”

A recent study by the American Federation for Immigration Reform reported that more than 15 percent of Nevada’s 2 million residents are foreign-born and asked the following question: “As the booming service and construction economies draw a massive immigration influx, how long will it take before the region’s quality of life is destroyed?” The report stated that more than 100,000 illegal aliens reside in Nevada and noted that 28 percent of our state’s school children have immigrant parents.

Let’s face it, burgeoning illegal immigration was a major contributing factor to the huge budget deficit Gov. Guinn and the Legislature were forced to deal with earlier this year, with corresponding tax increases for everyone except the illegals, who generally don’t pay taxes.

So while I welcome legal immigrants who learn English and come here to participate in the American Dream, I oppose any measure that proposes to legalize illegal immigrants. Again, they should obey our laws like everyone else and if they refuse, they should be deported just like Mexico deports the illegals who sneak across its southern border. And the employers who exploit the “undocumented workers” should be punished to the full extent of the law. That would be fair to all concerned.

Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.