Sunday, March 26, 2006

Celebrate immigration

From the L.A. Times: "A crowd estimated by police at more than 500,000 boisterously marched in Los Angeles on Saturday to protest federal legislation that would crack down on undocumented immigrants, penalize those who help them and build a security wall along the U.S.'s southern border."

It should go without saying, but it is often forgotten: America is a nation of immigrants. It is true that many are in America illegally, but, as John F. Kennedy put it in a book with that very title, A Nation of Immigrants: "Immigration policy should be generous; it should be fair; it should be flexible." Most immigrants are in America because they want to be. Some have risked their lives to come to what they see as, in Lincoln's words, "the last, best hope of earth". They came to America because, to them, America represents hope and opportunity, because it offers hope and opportunity to those who simply have neither elsewhere. They now live in America and contribute to America. Indeed, they love America and want to stay.

To be sure, something needs to be done about "illegal" immigrants. I won't address the options here, but I will say this: Let America's policy towards these immigrants be generous, fair, and flexible. Do not punish them for having chosen to come to America. Offer them an opportunity to settle, legally, for good. If they work, if they pay their taxes, if they accept the American way of life and want to be a part of it, indeed, if they are already American, broadly speaking, be generous to them. They only want to live their lives in Lincoln's last, best hope, in a nation of immigrants that has historically welcomed the tired, the poor, the huddled masses who have yearned for the chance to start anew.

These new Americans want to breathe free. Let them.

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