Immigration reform: Politics, policy and overpopulation

Since news broke over the weekend that a bipartisan group of senators was working on a plan to legalize the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and offer them a path to citizenship (but not without first paying financial penalties), and President Obama unveiled a similar proposal Tuesday promising some relief to immigrants while boosting border security and efforts to combat illegal hiring, readers have sent us more than two dozen letters on the topic.

As is often the case with immigration reform, many of the letters take uncompromising yes-or-no positions on the concept itself, largely reflecting the debate in Washington up until this past weekend. But several others weigh the finer points of immigration reform, including the political implications for both parties, the rapidly changing demographics of the U.S. and whether it makes sense for a path to citizenship to include so many obstacles in the form of stiff fines and more.

Here is a selection of those letters. Check later this week for more commentary on immigration reform.

John T. Chiu of Newport Beach sees a political motive behind Obama's and the Democrats' embrace of immigration reform:

"Although I  support the legalization of undocumented immigrants who possess skills sorely needed in our society or who have served in our armed forces, I fail to understand granting nearly wholesale amnesty to all. I think the Democrats should be upfront about their motive to garner more votes.

"When President Reagan granted amnesty to about 3 million illegal immigrants in 1986, we were told that it was something we needed to do to get a new start on immigration enforcement. Rather, it encouraged even more people to enter our country illegally, probably under the assumption that more amnesty would come. It appears they were right." 

Raising a similar point about the politics of immigration reform, Laguna Woods resident Paul McElroy says demographics don't favor the Republicans:

"President Obama rolled the dice on immigration reform in Nevada today. It's a state where gambling is quite popular.  

"The question is, are Republicans finally ready to abandon their amnesty opposition, or will they continue to gamble on a Latino backlash that could last for decades? They ignore the growing Latino voter bloc at their own peril.

"Besides, as Obama noted, 'Most of us used to be them.'"

Frequent mailbag contributor Ralph Mitchell of Monterey Park says forcing newly legalized immigrants to pay fines doesn't serve the purpose of reform:

"Why do proposals for immigration reform always have the requirement that any positive changes must be accompanied only upon payment of a fine and back taxes? Isn't the purpose of immigration reform to more fully integrate our society and recognize the legitimate human striving to make a better life for one's self?

"So why the fine? Is it to delegitimize the very thing that immigration reform is supposed to be doing? If we're honest, we will admit this is one more disgusting attempt by the conservative right to punish our fellow human beings for the sin of trying to have a better life for themselves and their families."

Lea Osborne of Woodland Hills raises an economic what-if:

"If we legalize 11 million illegal immigrants, who will do the jobs we are now told that only illegal immigrants are willing to do? Will we need more illegal immigrants to come through our porous borders in order to get those jobs done, being as all the illegal immigrants in this country will have become legal?"

In a letter that will run in Wednesday's paper, Kenneth Pasternack of Santa Barbara laments what he considers the 800-pound gorilla in the room: overpopulation. He writes:

"The debate in Washington ignores the main impact of immigration: It increases our population.

"America already hosts the world's third-largest population and suffers declining resources as a result. Americans deserve better from Washington, especially after reducing their family sizes enough to end population growth if immigration were reduced.

"Immigration mimics other vital issues on which the nation's leaders offer no leadership, such as global warming and deficit reduction."


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