Polemics & Exchanges

On 'Illegal Immigration'

Thank you for Theodore Pappas's article (Cultural Revolutions) on illegal immigration in the January 1991 issue. So little is written about the topic that we are grateful when anyone recognizes the problems.

A little clarification. There are two kinds of deportation. Most frequent is what agents refer to as "VRs." This translates into "voluntary returns," meaning those who are picked up almost as soon as they cross the border and who return south without going through the lengthy and expensive process of formal deportation. In the San Diego sector alone, there were 473,373 arrested, most being VRs, in fiscal 1990. Were all those people to be put through the entire process, roughly 1,300 illegal aliens would be jailed every day.

Then there are the illegals arrested who have committed crimes other than breaking the federal law to enter. Drug dealers, burglars, rapists, killers—the whole gamut of penal code violations. These are the ones who should be held in custody, but the regulations for handling them are so complex—they have been deemed eligible for all the protections that citizens have—that they are usually released pending trial. Needless to say, most of them disappear.

As an organization, we are having a feud with Jack Kemp and his policy of allowing illegal aliens any benefits that citizens are eligible for. We wrote and asked him why he was allowing illegals to benefit from subsidized housing and other entitlements, and received a canned, non-pertinent answer, so wrote again. This time we received the following from his office:

"Secretary Kemp has expressed particular concern about the injustices that would inevitably result from governmental action designed to withhold funds from illegal aliens facing a critical need for community development block grant (CDBG) assistance. In this regard, it is his view that basic considerations of justice and decency, and special sensitivity to the need to protect the least among us from misfortune not of their choosing, justifies the Department's position."

You have a good grasp of what our smaller communities are going through with not only illegal aliens, but the amnestied. We find that a huge percentage of the amnestied probably used fraud to get their papers, and they too live in the open and hang around street corners looking for work, driving everyone bananas.

        —Barbara McCarthy
Stamp Out Crime Council
San Diego, CA

That was some ball of yarn on West Coast immigration woes in your January issue. Let me pull at a few threads.

First you castigate the liberalization Congress enacted last fall, although it was basically designed to let in more people of a kindred cultural cast. Does its other provisions cloud the issue for you, or do you object broadly to the foreign-born? You worry about the medical costs of unbridled immigration in a social-welfare state. Rightly so. But why don't you address the welfare state itself instead of chasing off those who, like many of us, would exploit it? And, if it's sponging off America that so characterizes the immigrants, why is it, in Costa Mesa, California, and other cities you cite, that the most visible and targeted manifestations of the influx are the day laborers who congregate on residential sidewalks waiting for pickup?

Then, you raise the specter of latterday Okies fleeing to the great Anglo northland. It is true that California in recent years has shown a net exodus to both Oregon and Nevada, where Latinos are fewer and living costs less. It is not true for Washington State or Idaho or Montana or even Utah, however, so your reference to the Pacific Northwest is overdrawn.

Aside from these details, something larger needs to be said about the schism between libertarians and traditionalists on this issue. Mass immigration brings considerable difficulties, and objection to it is not ipso facto nativism or racism, and it cheapens the debate to suggest

so. But in addition to being an economic flush whose value you consistently underappreciate, this tidal flow reflects a force of human spirit so powerful that bedrock conservatives, of all people, ought to be daunted by the prospect of outrightly resisting it.

        —Tim W. Ferguson
Hermosa Beach, CA

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