Legalizing illegal immigrants

President George W. Bush is considering legalizing the status of the 3 million to 7 million Mexicans who enter the United States illegally to live and work. They risk life and limb coming to this country to start a better life for their families. Most illegal immigrants are willing and eager to work for the opportunities our nation offers. Of course, many who are privileged enough to be born in this country often don’t see the same opportunities as those south of the border. In part, Bush’s consideration of the issue seems to be a nod toward Hispanic voters, but it still has many benefits and is something the government should pursue.

It is unfair for people who work in this country and contribute to society to be denied the same rights and protection afforded Americans. In general, the government does not strictly enforce laws that prohibit employers from hiring illegal immigrants. Thus, the United States can either grant citizenship or create some type of work program that would ensure these workers are not being exploited, as well as encouraging them to participate in more civic activities. It should also be made clear that the legalization of illegal workers is not to say that Spanish should be established as a national language or that the United States should invite everyone in. However, it is hard to deny the contributions of Mexican workers in this land of opportunity.

The history of the migration of Mexicans into the United States is something that benefited our nation both financially and culturally. Early migration systems, such as the Bracero Program, took place during and after World War II when the United States was searching for cheap labor. In 1996, U.S. policy took a sharp turn against Mexican migration with the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibilities Act. The act doled out harsh penalties in order to deter illegal immigration and beef up security at the border.

With all the talk about legalization, it must be remembered that it is the most drastic of proposed plans being discussed. Many lawmakers are considering a temporary work program; one that includes legalization would let some workers eventually achieve citizenship. There are proposed work programs that do not include legalization, such as the guest work program, which would permit Mexicans to travel back and forth across the border without worry. Legalization would be the most beneficial for all involved, but any of these options would be a step in the right direction.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Attorney General John Ashcroft are also contemplating this issue and developing recommendations for a September meeting between Bush and Mexican President Vincente Fox. Fox is pushing for legalization of Mexican migrants already living and working in the United States along with simplified legal options for them. Having greater opportunities for Mexican workers to attain temporary work visas and improved cooperation from U.S. and Mexican authorities would perhaps decrease migrant deaths that occur because of immigrant trafficking, though it is interesting that Fox has no problem with his citizens flowing toward the United States.

Bush should push lawmakers for the legalization of migrants already living and working in the United States. The benefits for our nation will be great. Furthermore, trying to fight the migration of Mexican citizens is an uphill battle the United States can’t win. Spending money to prevent people from entering our nation is not pragmatic. Migrant workers play a vital role in our country’s economy. Making them citizens will finally give them the appreciation they deserve.