05/29/08 — Reality check: Want us to appreciate new immigrants? Follow the rules.

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Reality check: Want us to appreciate new immigrants? Follow the rules.

America has been and always will be a country that welcomes in anyone who wants to be here — and who wants to become an American.

So that is why some of us bristle when we hear comments from advocates and others about our unwillingness as a nation to simply anoint illegal immigrants with citizenship simply because they have managed to make it onto our soil.

It is a matter of respect.

Over the last few months, the issue of illegal immigration has come up multiple times, especially among those who are hoping to win the nomination to become president of the United States. Expect to hear a lot more about it as the campaign moves on.

There is talk about how the farm economy would stall without illegals — and that there are plenty of jobs that would go undone simply because Americans don’t want to work that hard.

And there are also those who point to the increasing number of immigrants and how the nation’s borders appear to be more like a sieve than a fenceline.

Also this week, there has been yet another story of an illegal immigrant without a driver’s license who decided to get behind the wheel of a car drunk and killed three people. That has sparked a new round of wondering what to do about education, law enforcement and deciding who should stay and who should go.

Making illegal immigrants follow certain procedures or demanding that they get in line for proper citizenship applications is not too much to ask. And although it won’t stop immigrants from breaking the law — anymore than it stops the American citizens we already have from ending up in jail and in the court system — it just might give this nation the means to get rid of those who commit crimes and to make others think before they decide to cross the border.

Illegal immigration is going to become a huge issue in the future as we as a nation try to figure out what our obligations are to these residents and how much we want to spend to care for them.

Admitting illegal immigrants to North Carolina community colleges is just one of the many decisions that will have tobe made locally.

Now, it is time for some of our Washington leaders to make some decisions about a workable, fair and practical solution to illegal immigration and the problems it creates for local and state governments.

And it is time to be tough about it.

American citizenship and the privilege of working in this country as a visiting national are not “rights.” Earning that permission should require some jumping through hoops — and it is Congress’s job to set those boundaries.

Published in Editorials on May 29, 2008 10:51 AM