This is a first. I am getting inundated with angry mail, and for once, I am innocent. Usually, my broadsides at politically irrelevant flaggers or loud-talking, know-it-all Yankees or President Peanut's pontifications will have folks snorting like a cranky bull with postnasal drip. But, alas, the Loyal Opposition is having a hard time getting my attention at the moment because my mailbox is overflowing with letters, petitions, analysis and just plain hyperventilation over the current immigration reform efforts in Congress.
Support for the measure ranges from President Bush to Ted Kennedy. Of particular interest to Georgians is that both of our U.S. senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, are deeply involved in the legislation, officially known as the Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007. One of the key components of the bill is what is known as the "Isakson Triggers." The "triggers" are a number of provisions to ensure that the borders are secured before getting into the issue of dealing with "temporary workers." Isakson says, "We are seeking to ensure that any reform Congress enacts will truly secure our borders first before any reform of our temporary worker system takes place."
Both senators refute the notion that the proposed legislation would include "amnesty" for illegal aliens already in the country. Sen. Chambliss, in a recent interview with the Moultrie Observer, said, "I would argue with anybody that this bill doesn't contain amnesty. And I could even argue very strongly that the current status quo, which those who are opposed to this bill are advocating - the status quo is amnesty, because we're doing nothing." Both men say getting citizenship will be made more difficult with passage of legislation.
If my mail is any indication, that message is falling on deaf ears with a lot of people across the state. Many Georgians are mad as hornets at the whole concept of people coming into the state illegally and then demanding government services as though they are law-abiding citizens when, in fact, they are not. While no one knows for sure, the estimates are that there are more than 500,000 illegal immigrants in Georgia at the moment.
Obviously, something has to be done. Right now, Osama bin Laden could cross into the United States from Mexico disguised as a bean-picker and no one would be the wiser. But we are not about to deport 12 million illegal aliens out of the United States. No way. Special-interest groups, businesses who depend on cheap labor - including a bunch in Georgia - union organizers and political parties who are courting the Hispanic vote aren't going to let it happen. Self-interest comes first in this country. You can go to the bank on that political fact.
I appreciate that our political leaders are looking at ways to fix the problem. But they need to understand that few people trust the federal government to do it right. A lot of us see just another bureaucracy a-borning: More government workers, more bureaucracy, more inter-agency turf-battles and more of our tax dollars to fund all of the above.
The government has had years to deal with the problem of illegal immigration and has not done diddlysquat. For example, in 1986 President Reagan signed a bipartisan immigration reform bill and said, "It will remove the incentive for illegal immigration. Future generations of Americans will be thankful for our efforts to humanely regain control of our borders and thereby preserve the value of one of the most sacred possessions of our people, American citizenship." That reform effort, of course, was a flop. Illegal immigration has quadrupled since those reassuring words. Why should we assume that this reform bill will be any better?
I don't have an easy answer to this complex problem. I only know that we can't continue to let people flood into the country illegally and place more and more strain on government services and on our schools. I truly hope our two Georgia senators can help create a workable solution. No doubt they are getting plenty of suggestions from the folks back home. If not, I will be happy to forward them my mail.
E-mail columnist Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have any thoughts about this column? Share them with us at email@example.com. Letters should be no more than 200 words and are subject to approval by the publisher. Letters may be edited for style and space requirements. Please sign your name and provide an address and a daytime telephone number. Address letters for publication to: Letters to the Editor, Gwinnett Daily Post, P.O. Box 603, Lawrenceville, GA 30046-0603. The fax number is 770-339-8081.