Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

We are of two minds on illegal immigration

Post by Brian O'Neill on Sep. 18, 2012 at 1:17 pm with 8 Comments »
September 18, 2012 1:17 pm

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.


TNT file photo

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.



Leave a comment Comments → 8
  1. BlaineCGarver says:

    I do not support machine gun nests on the border, but, please….I want illegals out of the country, as well as their anchor kids. It’s crazy for hard working Americans to pay taxes to support these people, when we are struggling to support our own families. Additionally, the law of being born on American soil = citizenship was never intended to cover these situations. If you want to stop the hiring of illegals, start jailing the employers.

  2. BlaineCGarver says:

    (Hit enter too soon) Brian, as a LEO, you are fully aware of the crime, and violence that illegals bring with them. Especially, the use of the illegals as drug mules as payment for helping to get them here.

  3. Brian O'Neill says:

    I am, Blaine. I also know about the parents who work two or more jobs each (jobs no American applied for), who live in daily fear of deportation and stay off the radar. The flip side of that is that Sureno gang members often come from these families, where both parents are too busy to keep tabs on their kids. More to follow in the next column.

  4. All I know is that I’ve met some nice people who I
    don’t know how to talk to. I wish that I did.

  5. musingintacoma says:

    As a US citizen who came to the US as a legal immigrant after waiting my turn in line for a visa, it frosts me somewhat that illegal immigrants will ‘queue jump’ over those who are waiting for their turn to come up.

    What this country needs is an immigration solution that will allow for migrant workers to work lawfully in this country in jobs that most citizens and LPRs will not even apply for. Such a solution should not necessarily provide a path to LPR status or citizenship, but recognize that our country needs people to do jobs that will not pay enough (we all like cheap produce at Winco;) for persons who live legally in the US, but pay a king’s ransom for someone whose home is in Mexico or some other Latin American country. Transparency is best; Brian I suspect you would agree that your job would be easier without the shadow of undocumented status.

  6. It’s not that americans won’t do those jobs, it’s that they won’t do them at the wages farmers/restaurants/etc are willing to pay. In turn, american consumers aren’t quite willing to pay a king’s ransom dining out at restaurants that hire illegals.

    When I was a kid, we worked at local farms picking strawberries, blueberries, cucumbers, etc. If I remember right, strawberries were paid at $1.20 a flat. Cucumbers, and blueberries, $1.20 a bucket (five gallon sized). Do you know how long it takes to fill a flat? Or how many blueberries it took to fill a five gallon bucket? We’d work back breaking labor all day for 5-10 dollars a day. In 1974. Adjusting for inflation I’m sure the farms are probably not paying much more, if anything. Probably less. Would adults drawing unemployment accept such conditions? Very few, I’d gather.

  7. Earth_watch says:

    Brian, as a law enforcement officer, I’m just as interested to hear your comments on the other part of the report: that of private for-profit prisons and local governments which seem fraught with corruption and fraud.

  8. Brian O'Neill says:

    Illegal immigration has as many perspectives as there are people in this country, because it effects us whether we are citizens, landed immigrants, taxpayers, or illegal aliens. The work they perform is vital to our nation’s economy, so yes, we do need to find a workable solution.

    As for private prisons, including the SCORE facility in Des Moines (where I would book prisoners), I don’t have much insight, Earthwatch. I will say that I have never been impressed with the way government handles big budgets (i.e. Pierce County’s large jail, empty cells and jailers collecting large overtime paychecks), but making a profit on prisons could create a conflict of interest scenario. It’s two sides of the same scratched up coin, I guess. I’ll try to look into it.

    Thanks for the comments.

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