Richard RiouxPauline HartePatti RasmussenTim WhyteLeon Worden

America must remain a haven for immigrants

Richard "Doc" Rioux · January 11, 1993

I am deeply saddened by those in Congress who think that one of the ways of solving the illegal immigration problem would be to strike out at the children of illegal immigrants.

No one knows better than I do how immigration -- legal and illegal -- and the recession have stressed public services to the maximum in this country. I have been in the county's overcrowded public hospitals and have seen how strained services have become. But to try and pass a new law revoking current federal law which now makes the children born to illegal immigrants U.S. citizens smacks of our own version of the "ethnic cleansing" going on in Yugoslavia. The attempt to pass such a new law by Congress would only cause further division in a nation badly in need of leaders working to bring our diverse ethnic and racial groups together, not drive them further and further apart.

The most meaningful solution to stemming the flow of illegal immigration from Mexico and other Latin American countries to the United States is long-term economic development. The North American Free Trade Agreement should help in this regard. The U.S. must do everything possible to spur business development in countries south of the border.

Most of the immigrants who ever this nation illegally would rather stay in their own countries than come here. If jobs were available to them in their countries they would remain there. But until those jobs are available, we can expect people with families to feed and clothe to do whatever is necessary to cross, tunnel under, go around or fly over the border. I would do no less if I were in their shoes.

As we deliberate over what to do about illegal immigration, policy makers need to be very sensitive to how ethnic minorities and other groups of people considered too different or alien have often been treated in our history. Let us remember the Salem Witch Trials, the persecution of the Mormons in the 1840s, the internment of Native Americans on reservations after the Civil War, the anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic Know Nothing Movement of the 1880s, the Jim Crowe laws that kept African Americans from the polls for a century after the Emancipation Proclamation, and the embarrassing results of the World War II Japanese American relocation camps. Let us also remember that until 1848 California and the great Southwest were part of Mexico. Mexicans and Native Americans were here first.

Finally, we need to be reminded that we are one nation under God and that America has been and continues to be a beacon of hope and compassion for people around the world seeking refuge and relief from poverty, hunger, tyranny and political upheaval.

The inscription on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty is worth re-reading:

Give me your tired and your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse to your teeming shore
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

- 30 -


Click Here for more of Dr. Richard Rioux's commentaries.

comments powered by Disqus