Local Views: Congressman Ryan wrong on his immigration reform plans

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Tom Breu
Sunday, September 8, 2013

Rep. Paul Ryan states that his support for immigration reform (paulryan.house.gov/issues) is based on upholding the rule of law and helping the economy.

His specific reasons?

Ryan says immigration reform can improve Wisconsin's economy if the system could be structured to help the dairy and hospitality industries, which suffer from worker shortages. (Gazette, July 19)

In other words, we need to legalize more low-wage guest-worker jobs with H2B or W visas. This labor incentive swamps Ryan's concern of the negative effects of having more poor, uneducated, second-class (future) citizens.

An alternative to worker shortages in these industries? How about raising wages? Maybe even through unionization?

Ryan says undocumented workers must get in back of the probationary 15-year line, pay fines and work, and breaking the terms of that probation means immediate deportation.

If you're on the invisible edge of society, keeping your head low, maybe trying to raise a family, would you risk deportation on the hope you won't lose your job for 15 years?

Ryan asserts that granting quick citizenship for undocumented workers wouldn't be fair to those by-the-book nicely queued folk. That's a red herring. Those queued folk only want their own quick admissions, a very different problem than that facing residents.

Get back in line? Even the expression belittles the immigrants, reducing the collective “sneaks” to something like third-graders wanting ice cream.

Ryan's “First Principle” for immigration reform is to secure the border, his issue paper stating we must raise our presence to deal with the high pressure. The inevitable result is more fencing, more guards, more surveillance and more National Security Agency. Ryan concludes, “In order to achieve a lasting and permanent solution to our broken immigration system, we must secure the border, enforce our laws and fix our immigration system.”

Ignoring the lack of rigor (Can anything in politics be considered permanent?) and circularity (The solution to the broken system … is to fix the system.), is there any alternative to Ryan's bigger, more militarized government?

Instead of increasing defensive border posture, Ryan could immediately advocate high penalties for employers of undocumented workers. That would reduce the border pressure. It's a no-brainer, yet Ryan defers.

Further, because Ryan's First Principle is border security, let's not ignore the 500-pound gorilla. Imagine the effect of legalizing marijuana. There would be no need for cantaloupe-legged kids carrying heavy bundles. The trillion-dollar drug war could flip-flop into half-empty jails and a trillion-dollar surplus. The 42 percent of Americans older than 12 who've smoked pot would have “the chance to get right with the law.” Ryan's issue paper says conservatives deal with the world as it is. Too bad their reality misses the lesson taught by the 18th and 21st (Prohibition) amendments.

Illegal aliens pay huge prices: survive coyotes, risk family separations, shoulder day-labor abuse. Ryan is a fifth-generation American, a millionaire aristocrat, clueless.

Real Americans focus on individual justice, the human being, the man, woman or child kept down.

Ryan is right in supporting immigration reform. He's just got the reasons wrong.

Tom Breu of Janesville is treasurer of the Democratic Party of Rock County; phone 608-741-2020; email democraticpartyofrockcounty@gmail.com.

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