There is an elephant in the room, of non-Republican variety, that is slowly becoming visible, at least around the edges. Its name is immigration. To be specific, illegal immigration but the fact that a disclaimer needs to be added is part of the problem.
This situation was prominently displayed locally by the rally conducted in Chicago March 10. Crowds were estimated from between 300,000 to half a million, depending on whether you choose to believe police or organizers, but irregardless it was a powerful statement, picked up and dissected nationally, from an area that shares no international borders.
Protesters, of Irish, Polish, Hispanic and other ethnic origins, took to the streets in a show of strength against House Resolution 4437, the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005. This action, winding its way through the legislative process, in an attempt to clarify and bolster border control, as well as seeking to address the millions of undocumented persons already here, may not be the best of all possible methods to achieving its titled goal, but the problem is large and becoming more so.
Some quick facts: The United States/Mexico border is around 1,330 miles; the U.S./Canada border is about three times that. Both are porous. Census figures have the population of Canada slightly more than 30 million; the Mexican population is more than three times that.
America is, I believe, the only country in the world to grant citizenship to newborns on the basis of their delivery location. This is a noble, if unintentional and exploited, characteristic. Years ago, I read a newspaper story about an organized tour of disguised third-trimester Korean women who would seek to enter the US and birth their hidden children within the allotted visa term limit, thereby ensuring dual citizenship and a path for other family members to be expedited through the immigration route. Such stories make me incredibly sad.
I come from a family of semi-recent immigrants, myself being the fourth generation born in the country. During this period, from around 1900 to present, a majority of the males have been a member of the armed services. This fact reminds me of one of the more widely distributed photographs from the Chicago rally, a protester’s sign stating “My Mexican immigrant son died in Iraq.” Citizenship fast-tracking has become a valuable tool for recruiters and I believe trading military service for citizenship to be a noble bargain, even if it does smack of Robert Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers.”
These are but two non-traditional methods towards citizenship. There are others. Legal immigration, on the other hand, has in the past been an equation of quotas and limitations that never seemed to apply if you were a Cuban with a devastating curve ball. Students on track to become needed scientists and engineers come from abroad, if we allow them. Border regulation is a legitimate homeland security issue, but any real solution will address the legal labyrinth method as well. America has been and is reinvigorated and refueled by immigration. Undocumented laborers entering America take up repressive jobs that pay better than those at home, but enter a half-life that provides while it drains, solidifying a wedge in the gears of economic forces that would force change. Companies using illegals would likely hire the same people as guest-workers at higher legitimate wages if alternatives disappeared. Conversely, flagrant immigration law-breaking cannot be rewarded without damage to societal structure. I’m not smart enough to have an answer, but of one fact I am sure–something, but not just anything, needs to be done. Quickly.
A border-line disorder from shipping to skipping
By Ron Felten - Columnist
The issue of homeland security has been back in the news recently, in regards to both the failed Dubai Ports World deal and possible immigration reforms currently being discussed by Congress.
DPW, a company managed by the governing body of the United Arab Emirates (home of two of the 9/11 hijackers), recently dropped its bid for control of six U.S. seaports after intense scrutiny from the legislative branch. President Bush, however, wanted the deal to go through, calling the U.A.E. our “allies in the war on terror.”
Bush’s claim is certainly valid to some extent but, as Media Matters has reported, the bipartisan 9/11 commission found that the U.A.E. “ignored American pressure to clamp down on terror financing until after the [September 11] attacks.” With “friends” like these, as the saying goes, who needs enemies?
The shipping industry has received some interesting attention in this post-9/11 world; while it’s been determined that only about five percent of the containers coming into the US are inspected for illegal and possibly dangerous materials (e.g. nuclear and chemical weapons), Bush and many business leaders have expressed concern over the proposed tighter controls, saying they could hurt profits.
Members of Congress challenged this logic, however, and rightly questioned if DPW could be trusted with our nation’s safety. The company dropped its bid before any legislative action was taken, but the issue of foreign-controlled U.S. ports still remains an important issue. According to Los Angeles’ KTLA News, “Most port terminals in the United States are operated by foreign companies.”
Let’s be careful to note the irony of this DPW situation: The very climate of fear Bush helped to nurture after 9/11, which arguably helped him to win re-election in 2004, came back to bite him, as Congress recognized this proposed deal as a legitimate security threat and, for once, began to take some action to protect our country (though, as noted, no legislation was ultimately needed).
In another recent twist, the Bush administration is challenging the results of Belarus’ national election, saying the contest was conducted in “a climate of fear” (their words this time, not mine), and is calling for new elections to be held. Well, if anyone’s an expert on scaring a populace into voting for one group over another, it’s certainly George W. Bush. Terror alert system, anyone? Or how about Bush touting himself as a “war president” and then adding, “I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign-policy matters with war on my mind.”
Also in the homeland security-related news is the possibility of new federal immigration legislation, an issue that is currently being debated on Capitol Hill. The L.A. Times summed up the matter nicely: “Some GOP lawmakers believe that the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. should be declared criminals and that border security should be the main focus of new legislation. Others view undocumented immigrants as an important source of labor, and favor plans to create temporary work visas that could provide a path to citizenship.”
While immigration is certainly an issue deserving of our attention, declaring “illegal” immigrants to be felons, as some are proposing, seems to me a bit extreme. The United States is a relatively young country but, somehow, we’ve already forgotten the details of our genesis. If the genocide committed against the Native Americans who stood in the way of our perceived manifest destiny wasn’t “illegal,” then we certainly can’t criminalize the practice of coming to the U.S. to perform horrible jobs for a substandard wage.
Any way you look at these issues, both the status of our nation’s port security and the pending immigration reform debate are forcing us to ask and answer some very important (not to mention difficult) questions. As with everything, though, a little historical perspective and some good, old-fashioned rationality will go a long way in helping to solve these problems.
The short answer: Shipping containers need to be checked by U.S. officials regardless of who’s running a given port and human beings can’t be locked out of our society forever simply because they weren’t born on this side of an arbitrarily drawn line (or, in the case of our southern border, naturally occurring waterway). Not every package is safe, nor is every foreigner a terrorist.
Yesterday was the final day for the faculty to weigh in on the chancellor’s job performance via an electronic survey that was commissioned by the faculty senate. When is the final day for the students to weigh in? Maybe the better question is will the students be asked to weigh in at all.
Once the survey data is collected and summarized, it will be discussed in an executive confidential session of the faculty senate and then given to Chancellor Ringeisen, President White and the Board of Trustees. Evaluating Chancellor Ringeisen and determining if he should be reappointed is up to the President of U of I and the BOT; however, according to an e-mail sent March 28 from Campus Senate President Pat Langley to the UIS faculty, “the importance of faculty perspectives in the selection and evaluation of the Chancellor by the BOT is a strong and central principle of the UI system of governance.”
The faculty senate believes that “in order for the evaluation to be fully informed, serious and systematic input from all constituencies, but most especially the faculty, is required.” Most especially the faculty? This editorial board does not disagree that faculty input is paramount, but what of student input? Last we checked this was an educational institution, founded to educate students.
The UIS Chancellor is the face and the voice of this university. The decisions he makes impacts the education we, as students, receive and the reputation of this institution. Thus the quality of our education, the respectability of the degree we will (hopefully) one day receive, our very futures are in his hands. This is our university too–our chancellor–and we care.
In order to become part of the U of I system and obtain all that that change of name garnered us, we had to give a lot of things up, such as our faculty union and some of our independence. However the large university system can never take from us something which we refuse to give–ourselves and the founding principles of this university. Sangamon State University was founded on the radical idea that all university units could meet as equals on the educational battlefield.
We may not be able to compete with UIUC in terms of our basketball team or the range of academic programs offered. Yet, because of our size and history, we have a unique ability to compete in the open lines of communication that (ought to if they do not already) exist between administration and students.
At this point, it is immaterial if students approve or disapprove of the chancellor’s job performance. What matters is that we are given the opportunity to have a voice in the discussion and that the results of any and all surveys are shared with our campus community.
What our faculty thinks about our chancellor is relative information to UIS as a whole, in particular the student population. As a public institution funded by taxpayer dollars and our tuition money, that information should be made available to anyone who wants it.
One of this university’s missions is to produce students who are informed and concerned citizens. How can they attempt to create an engaged citizenry, while simultaneously quelling our participation in an institution we belong to?
An argument against student input in this matter is that students do not have a clear idea of what the chancellor does and thus cannot give an educated opinion. However, we would argue that many students are not as uneducated as some would make us out to be.
We at UIS are so fortunate because many students have met the chancellor at one time or another and actually have spoken to him.
Second, there are many faculty members who do not fully understand the chancellor’s job, but they still get an opportunity to be heard. By providing “I have no basis for making a judgment” as an answer option, the creators of the faculty survey acknowledged and solved for the problem. Why couldn’t a similar option be provided for students?
Third, since when do just the educated and informed get a voice in how an institution is run? Even illiterate people have a constitutional right to vote in a presidential election. And if students are not appropriately educated about the job of the chancellor, perhaps it is the job of those doing the educating? Students and faculty alike need a Cap Scholar-style SSU/UIS history class to be reminded where we came from so we know where we want to go.
The professors we have had and this university as a whole has taught us to question authority and never take anything at face value. When something happens that we disagree with, when this university is not meeting its potential, we must fight for change. We have a responsibility to ensure our voice is not taken away not just for ourselves but for future students.