Saturday, July 3, 2010

A City on a Hill

On this Fourth of July weekend, we celebrate the freedoms many of us take for granted. I am sure that when the Founding Fathers met in the sweltering heat of Philadelphia in 1776, they had no idea that what they started would be the creation of a beacon that would draw pople from all over the world. People flock to the United States to this day because of our freedom, and the opportunities we have.

It is fitting, then, to contemplate immigration reform. The president gace a speech on the issue two days ago. While I am generally not a fan of this president, there are some things I must agree with him about. Namely, that our immigration system is broken and is in need of reform.

A few years ago, I was in the camp of enforcement only, and strengthening the security of our borders. I still believe strongly in strengthening our borders. But, I have seen how the enforcement only approach has simply failed, and created an inhumane and intolerable situation.

The problem with enforcement only is tat it requires a huge amount of resources to implement. You need money for more courts and judges. You need money for more ICE officers. You need money for more goverment lawyers. You need money for more detention facilities. You need money to care for those who are held in detention awaiting a hearing.

Yet, we have not had the forethought to pure the money into the system. What is the result? People charged with immigration violations are being crowded into jails awaiting hearings. Sometimes, with the hge backlog of cases, they find themselves waiting years for a hearing. Worse yet, these people, who may have already served time for various minor crimes, and who are only awaiting a hearing for alleged immigration violations, find themselves mixed in with the general population of some of the most violent criminals.

The strain on the immigration court system is great. The judges' docket is packed. The government attorneys are overworked. In many instances, when the person has a claim under the law for relief, it is not unusual to have to wait two years for a hearing.

Money has not been put into the system to care for those who are in detention. Detainees sometimes lack even rudimentary health care. Plus, the system creates incentives for those in charge of the detention to develop a cold and callous attitude towards detainees. There are stories of detainees who complain of health issues, only to have ICE officers use that to pressure them to give up their case, and just accept going back to their home countries. There was one story from two years ago where the ICE officers refused to believe a man from Hong Kong of his incredible pain. Not until his family was able to get a court order was he able to get a medical exam. By then, it was discovered that this man had cancer, and the delay in treatment only served to allow the cancer to spread through his body.

This is the result of our enforcement only policy. This is why, as a human being, I can no longer support enforcement only. Yes, tose who broke the law should not be able to benefit by that. But, the reality is, the problem is just far too big to solve simply by enforcement only. If our elected officials are not going to have the political strength to dedicate the resources necessary to implement the enforcement only approach in a human e fashion, he we have to address those who are here, and do it in a fair way.

This country should continue to the a beacon for the world. As my favorite president, Ronald Reagan, described, we should be a city on a hill, an example of freedom and self-government for the whole world to admire. And we should lead by example, showing that we can deal with our immgiration problems fairly, but with compassion.

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