05/02/06 — Growing debate: Immigrants’ boycott only fueled immigration law fire

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Growing debate: Immigrants’ boycott only fueled immigration law fire

It seemed like a good idea on the surface — hold a national boycott day to show this country just how valuable immigrant labor, purchasing power and dollars are to the American economy.

And, as you protest and rally, carry your native country’s flag while also displaying the banner of your new, hopefully soon-to-be-adopted, home.

Nice image, those flags and signs, but really, in the end, did all those rallies make a difference? Or, on the contrary, will there be a backlash as this country continues the immigration debate?

The hundreds of thousands of immigrants who gathered across the country to show their concern about new rules being considered that would place restrictions on immigration in the country made an impact.

There were thousands of businesses that had to close or curtail their production because of labor concerns. And, although it will be hard to measure, there was probably an economic effect on the country as well.

But what also came about this time was a response of sorts from the “other side.” There were protesters who pointed out the costs of illegal immigration and rallied for even stricter measures to control who comes across the nation’s borders. They also affirmed their country’s right to limit access to the right of citizenship, calling for tougher rules and no amnesty for those who chose to break this nation’s laws to get to the U.S. in the first place.

So, the boycott, while making its point to a certain extent, also launched an even more strenuous debate among Americans and immigrants of all nationalities and legal status. Who has the right to be here, and what should the rules be for staying? There is no question, the discussion is far from over.

The immigration debate is an important one. We need to decide as a nation on a viable immigration policy, communicate it to immigrants and residents alike, and then stick to it. We need to treat rule-benders as law-breakers, making them go through the same process as others who want to become citizens.

U.S. citizenship should be an honor that is earned, not a squatter’s right. That is a standard we should stick to as we decide on a workable immigration policy.

And until we decide exactly what is right and what we will treat as wrong, there is nothing wrong with listening to opinions from all sides. That right to debate is what made this nation strong in the first place, and it is what will help us make the right decision.

Published in Editorials on May 2, 2006 2:24 PM