Answers on immigration hard to find


By Mike King, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 25, 2005

Two defining American values upholding the rule of law and creating opportunities for those who come here to improve their lives are in constant conflict in the debate over illegal immigration.

On the national level, nearly every discussion of efforts to reform the broken immigration system breaks down over what to do with the 10 million to 12 million people who have come to the United States illegally from Mexico and other countries south of the border. The hardest-edged reformers demand that we send them home and stop making it so easy for them to flout the law.

Immigration-rights advocates counter that immigrants here illegally are already so ingrained in the economy that the nation would be better off finding a way to make them legal....

... What role, if any, does local government play in drafting laws that affect immigrants? Can a line be drawn at the local and state levels marking what government services should be made available to illegal immigrants without inviting more to come and take advantage of taxpayer generosity?

For instance, Cobb County government last weekend offered a nonprofit group the use of a community recreation center as the site for a health and job fair aimed at Latinas. While there was no way of telling what percentage of immigrants attending the fair are illegally in the country, it's a fair bet many perhaps most were....

But when it comes to immigration, local laws seem equally ineffective. For a few years Marietta tried to deal with the issue of immigrant day-labor pools, first by enforcing loitering laws, but eventually by enacting an ordinance that prohibited hiring day laborers who hang out at gas stations and other businesses. After heavy criticism, the city gave up on enforcing the no-hiring ban....

The message Georgians seem to want to send to illegal immigrants is getting clearer: Breaking the law to get here may not get you a one-way ticket home, but it doesn't mean you should expect local and state government to put out a welcome mat.

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