Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: illegal immigration


Farming: Poster child for immigration reform

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Despite all the complaints about partisan gridlock in Congress, Senate Republicans have joined Democrats to produce an artfully negotiated immigration reform package.

The country needs this legislation — but that doesn’t guarantee it will clear the House. Hard-line Republicans in that chamber are still grumping about amnesty and demanding a hermetically sealed border before they’ll consider giving some kind of legal status to the estimated 11 million people living in this country illegally.

There’s common ground to build on, though: Even in the House, many Republicans recognize the need to legalize the status of the workers who harvest crops, slaughter livestock, cultivate nurseries and otherwise keep American agriculture in business.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, roughly half of America’s farm labor force is illegal. Washington – one of the nation’s leading farm states – is especially dependent on unauthorized workers.

At least two-thirds of the people who harvest this state’s apples, cherries, grapes and pears could theoretically be deported. In other words, enforcing the current law would destroy entire industries — proof that the law has to be adjusted to reality.

At some point in the near future, even nonfarmers are going to realize what a godsend those workers are. Mexico — where most illegal farm labor comes from — is getting wealthier and exporting fewer low-wage laborers. Harvesting is backbreaking work; even in the Great Recession, few unemployed Americans from other industries were willing to endure it.

A country looking at a scarcity of farm workers had best figure out how to hang on to them. Threatening to kick them out is not the way to do it.
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Congress has failed on immigration for far too long

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Illegal immigration is a problem only the federal government can fix. America can’t have 50 states with 50 different immigration policies.

The U.S. Supreme Court was right Monday when it killed Arizona’s move to criminalize job-seeking by illegal aliens, arrest them without warrants and require all immigrants to carry papers.

Arizona usurped federal authority when it included those provisions in the hard-line immigration law it enacted in 2010. Most media hotheads have focused on another part of the law, the one that would allow police officers to check the immigration status of

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Try reasonable middle way to license illegal immigrants

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

One issue that has arisen in the state gubernatorial race is whether people seeking driver’s licenses should have to prove legal residency. Washington is one of only two states – New Mexico is the other – that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain unrestricted driver’s licenses – ones that can be used for personal identification purposes.

Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican, wants applicants to show Social Security documentation in order to be licensed to drive. His opponent, Democrat Jay Inslee, isn’t ready to go there.

Inslee is right – to a point. Requiring

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The solution for illegal farm labor: Legalize it

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Congress: Please don’t let American farmers remain hostage to your hopelessly deadlocked arguments over illegal immigrants.

This is the growing season and – for many crops – the harvest season. Washington is one of the nation’s leading agricultural states, which gives us a front row seat on the sweaty, dirty-fingernailed world of farm labor.

In that world, the labor-intensive harvesting of fruit and vegetables would be crippled without illegal farm workers.

The orchards east of the Cascades offer a dramatic example. When it’s time to pick the cherries, for example, hundreds of orchardists need hundreds of workers on their trees – right then, not a week later.

That requires a massive influx of laborers, an influx that local communities cannot provide. The human river of farm workers – many of them illegal – makes the harvest possible.

Many industries could fare well without illegal workers. Tens of millions of citizens now lack jobs in this country, and unskilled Americans should not have to compete with illegal immigrants who will work for less under harsher conditions. We get that.
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State laxity on immigration invites voter backlash

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

A sobering number from the Pew Research Center: Over the last three years, the number of illegal immigrants in Washington has jumped by 35 percent.

During the same period, the number of illegal immigrants was falling in the rest of the United States, as many of them lost jobs and headed home.

The Pew numbers – based on analysis of U.S. Census data – corroborate an abundance of evidence that Washington has become an oasis of sorts for people without legal residency.

No real surprise there. The state government is unusually hospitable to illegal immigrants – sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for no reason beyond politics.

A good reason: The simple decency of providing health insurance and adequate nutrition to undocumented children – who had no say in a parent’s decision to sneak into the country.

Not so good: The state’s apparently politically driven reluctance to cooperate with a federal push to intercept illegal-immigrant criminal suspects at the point of arrest.

Backed by Congress, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is asking states for fingerprint metrics of arrestees so it can identify those who overstayed visas or otherwise ran afoul of federal immigration law.

State officials could pass on the metrics with no effort or expense. They won’t.
Also not so good is the state’s insistence on issuing standard driver’s licenses to applicants regardless of legal status.

Forty-seven states do not license illegal immigrants, period. One – Utah – issues licenses that are not valid for identification. Only Washington and New Mexico refuse to make any distinction whatsoever between legal and illegal.
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Secure Communities: Great idea, if done humanely

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Secure Communities is based on a good idea: systematically intercepting illegal aliens who run afoul of the law. Like a lot of good ideas hatched in Washington, D.C., the devil lies in the execution.

Secure Communities is a partnership – not a happy one, in some cases – of federal, state and local law enforcement. When suspects are booked into jail and their fingerprints are passed on to the FBI, the fingerprint metrics also go to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, allowing for cross-checking between criminal and immigration databases.

An illegal alien who lands in jail can thus be immediately flagged for possible deportation by ICE.
Done right, this catches criminals who aren’t in the country legally – precisely the class of illegal aliens nearly everyone agrees ought to be sent home if not jailed in the United States.

As a way of prioritizing immigration enforcement, this beats random hunts for people who jumped borders or overstayed visas yet are otherwise law-abiding.

Aggressively implemented by the Obama administration, Secure Communities is now operating in roughly 800 jurisdictions in 34 states. Washington is not among them.

The Washington State Patrol could provide the metrics to ICE with a few strokes on a keyboard. But the governor and state patrol say it’s up to the individual counties to request that the WSP forward the fingerprints to ICE. They report that none of the county sheriffs have so requested.

One gets the impression that no one wants to touch this tar baby until 2013, when the federal government will force the issue by funneling all FBI fingerprint data into ICE.

Opponents of Secure Communities appear to break down into two camps. One essentially doesn’t believe in borders and fights any serious attempt at immigration enforcement.
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Mike Lonergan to council: Don’t rush to judgment about Arizona

Mike Lonergan may have left the Tacoma City Council, but he’s still got a lot to say about city affairs. Here’s some advice he emailed Sunday to the current council:

I’m just one of 208,000 residents of Tacoma now, but I do have a different perspective because of my recent Council work. So here goes:

It is important to restoring confidence that our City government is responsive to the citizens of Tacoma that you do not move to reconsider the Resolution condemning Arizona’s recent legislation on Tuesday. Instead, Council Member Boe was exactly right when he said that this deserves more study and specific recommendations as it relates to Tacoma, with no need even to mention Arizona. Read more »