11/17/06 — Immigration: It is the elephant in the room that it is time to talk about

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Immigration: It is the elephant in the room that it is time to talk about

There are some who might think that the only issue facing the brand new Congress come January is the war in Iraq.

Far from it.

An incident in Tar Heel today points to an equally important question that could have just as much influence over the future of this state and this nation.

More than 1,000 nonunion employees of Smithfield Foods walked off the job today to protest what they said was the unfair treatment of some of the workers there.

Several grievances were cited, but one of the most telling was the workers’ displeasure with the company’s firing of about 75 workers who provided false documents. The company’s examination of all workers’ papers found that 600 had unverifiable identification — that is out of 5,000 workers at the plant.

And that is shocking.

Illegal immigration and undocumented immigrants are going to continue to be a huge problem in this country if somebody doesn’t come up with a workable solution soon.

There are hundreds of communities across this state — and many more than that across the nation, that are dealing with the fallout from what can only be considered lackluster immigration regulation. The strain on social service agencies as well as the resulting problems with providing education and other services to a large population, some of whom do not speak English, will continue to be a factor in budgeting and managing resources properly.

And then there is the security question.

Immigration has been a positive for this country historically. Many residents of this nation today are descendants of those who booked passage and came here from around the world decades ago.

And we should still want to welcome the huddled masses — as long as they play by the rules.

This country has an immigration procedure for a reason. There is a line — and there are requirements you must meet if you are going to become a United States citizen. And that is how it should be.

Without regulation and stiff penalties for those who choose to ignore the rules, the United States cannot control its borders or serve all its citizens.

So, if you do not have proper citizenship documents, and you lie when you apply for a job, you should be sent home. That is only right.

The time to talk about immigration is now. There is no more time for feel-good politics. There is too much at stake.

Published in Editorials on November 17, 2006 10:51 AM