A recent District Line column dealt with illegal aliens who sneak into this country and take jobs that might otherwise be filled by American citizens. Bill Samuel of Falls Church offered a different viewpoint. He wrote:
"Do you remember the inscription on the Statue of Liberty? What does it mean to you?
"I ask these questions because of your xenophobic column against people without immigration documents who come to the U.S. and seek employment. These people are human beings just like you and me who happened to be born outside the U.S.A. They come from countries where there is much less economic opportunity and/or greater political oppression. They pay us the compliment of viewing our society as a better society and seek to join us. They 'sneak' in only because they are not welcomed.
"This is one world. Is it right for us to deny others the opportunities we have in this country?
"It is true that the existence of a dual labor market, made possible by the pool of workers from other countries who lack documents, depresses wage levels and results in poor working conditions in some lines of work.
"We could avoid the dual labor market by allowing all adults to work legally without fear of deportation. We should also be aware that a job taken by one (regardless of his/her country of origin) does not necessarily result in the denial of a job to someone else. Each worker added to the labor force also increases production and consumption. The larger the economy, the more jobs there are to go around."
I'm sorry, my friend, but I disagree with almost every point in your argument. I admire your humanitarian outlook, but not your views on "illegals."
Yes, I remember the Emma Lazarus lines inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. What they bring to my mind is a bygone era in which we were filing up an empty continent.
I don't know the precise year in which Emma wrote those words, but she has been dead for 91 years. The theory that this continent could continue to absorb unlimited immigration forever has been dead even longer than Emma.
In response to the wishes of the majority, the Congress long ago established laws regulating immigration into this country. You can call illegal aliens "people without immigration documents" if you wish - as if this were some kind of minor violation, like overtime parking; but the fact remains that they are lawbreakers.
You say, "They pay us the compliment of viewing our society as a better society and seek to join us. They sneak in only because they are not welcomed." If you caught me sneaking into your house in the dead of night, would you accept as valid an explanation that I paid you a compliment by viewing your possessions as better than mine, and I sneaked in only because you had failed to welcome me in?
Your solution for the illegal alien problem is to legalize "all adults" who want to work in this country. We could solve the narcotics problem the same way. If we'd repeal our drug laws, there would be nothing to violate, and therefore no lawbreakers.
You argue that a job taken by one does not necessarily result in the denial of a job to someone else because - theoretically - there is room for everybody in a growing economy. I think there are at least two things wrong with that argument.
First, there is serious question as to how much more our population or economy will grow. I doubt that many Americans want our country to become as crowded as India is.
Second, even if we were still filling up an empty continent, the creation of new jobs is always somewhere "down the road" - off in the future. The 19th century practice of hiring coolies to help lay railroad tracks did lead to the creation of new jobs decades later. But of what use were those new jobs to the Americans who were beaten out by coolie labor? And how will a job to be created in the year 2000 help a person who is looking for work today ?
Yes, this is one world, but I do not feel a responsibility to carry the whole thing on my back. I work hard, I pay my taxes just as I'm sure you pay yours, and a good portion of our tax money is used to help people who live in other countries. What's more, those who obey the laws that regulate immigration into our country are indeed welcomed and accepted by most Americans.
I believe in sharing. I think we should help our neighbors. But I feel no obligation to hold a perpetual open house for all of mankind.