First in a series on illegal immigration
The recent Trib series on illegal immigration was an exhaustive piece of investigative journalism. With its lengthy account of the recent events that brought the Northwest Detention Center to the Tacoma Tideflats, along with the parallel story of an illegal alien incarcerated there, Oscar Campos-Estrada, it was also an exhausting read.
The collection of Trib reports told a story that is just as relevant now as when the Statue of Liberty first raised its torch over the waters of Upper New York Bay. With the exception of Native Americans, the roots of every American come from some other place. Immigrants arrived as children and adults, as free people and (to our lasting shame) as slaves. Most came willingly in pursuit of the enduring goal – to find a better life in America.
That goal still lures many people into risking hardship and incarceration to enter the United States illegally. A small percentage of those are now inmates at the Northwest Detention Center, where they wait their turn in the slow-moving and overburdened immigration court. The Trib report opened a window on the circumstances that led men, such as Oscar Campos Estrada, from the hinterlands surrounding our southern border to a cell at the Northwest Detention Center, wand thus provided a fresh perspective for the ongoing debate on illegal immigration.
That is a worthwhile endeavor. Illegal immigration is an issue which has polarized our country (remember Arizona’s “draconian” new immigration law?) and paralyzed our politicians (all of whom want the Hispanic vote). The loudest voices, as always, come from the fringe camps of the left and right and could be summed up respectively:
We should open our borders to any and all who chase the American Dream, who value freedom and liberty above all else; Or
We should line our nation with walls thick and tall enough to protect us from the very real threat of international terrorists, drug cartels and criminals whose only goal is to exploit our generosity.
While those views lie outside the bell curve, the average American looks for a compromise in the chunky center. However, the constant push and pull of contrasting viewpoints has kicked any moderate and viable solution down the road like a discarded can.
Given the current national temperament, the adjective that best articulates the subject of illegal immigration in the United States is…conflicted. To wit,
- We want cheap labor, but we don’t want illegal immigrants taking our jobs.
- We want to make sure everyone in our country has a decent education, but we don’t want illegal immigrants overloading our school system.
- We want to help those living in poverty, but we don’t want illegal immigrants receiving those entitlements.
It’s not hard to see why the immigration question weighs so heavily on the average American, and I am as conflicted as anyone. In the next column(s) I will delve into my own experiences with immigration, both as the son of immigrants and as a police officer working alongside Homeland Security agents searching for illegal aliens. I welcome your comments on a topic that is so vital to our nation’s financial stability, security and status as the protector of democracy in the free world.
And if you have the time, scroll over to the Trib series on illegal immigration. It is well worth the read.