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Wisconsin editor misses the bigger immigration question

Reedsburg (Wis.) Times-Press Editor Julie Belschner writes in her August 2 column that the nation's worsening border situation "isn't about illegal immigration" but about "children who need help."

I disagree on both counts. What this is really about is our federally created immigration crisis that has been growing for nearly 30 years because Congress has failed at the request of the greedy and unprincipled business community to demand enforcement of the laws it created to protect American workers. It is about whether we are still a sovereign people with every right to be consulted as to who and how many people should be allowed into the country.

Nobody has the right to come here; it is a privilege that we extend to foreigners under certain circumstances. But right now, with 18 million Americans unable to find full-time work and with poverty levels increasing among the most vulnerable of our own native-born, we don't need more immigrants but more jobs for our citizens. Our immigration laws were created for the benefit of the American people - not the rest of the world.

The Central Americans showing up by the thousands on our southern border are in main entire families, not "unaccompanied children," according to the U.S. Patrol Patrol, and most of the latter are in their mid-teens. Ms. Belschner incorrectly calls these people "refugees," but they do not meet the requirements for such status, says the federal government. Refugees, says the the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services, are those who are of “special humanitarian concern to the United States” and have demonstrated that they were persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion in their country of origin. This is not the case here. Further, in order to qualify for Unaccompanied Alien Child status, children cannot have any parents or legal guardians in the U.S., and most of them do. Many of these adults also are illegal aliens.

The 2008 law that many in the media say prevents immediate deportation of Central Americans was passed in order to stop human trafficking, which involves the use of force. But the majority of these children are in fact being smuggled, admitted Jeh Johnson, head of the Department of Homeland Security.

President Obama already has the tools he needs to end this problem that he created with his no-enforcement message that he has been sending since taking office, so he doesn't need any more money to get the job done. According to published reports, Obama saw this coming nearly two years ago but did nothing. Nearly 15 years ago the U.S., working with Mexico and Guatemala, stopped 80,000 Central Americans from entering this country. If we could do it then, why not now?

Ms. Belschner tries to make her case by quoting Emma Lazarus' 1883 poem, "The New Colossus," that was written three years before the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. The statue is officially called "Liberty Enlightening the World," not "Liberty Inviting the World." The statue, which was a gift from France to celebrate the centennial of the American Revolution, was never intended to reflect our immigration policy. Lazarus died several years after the statue's dedication in 1886, and about 15 years later a group of her friends had her poem inscribed on a small plaque and placed inside the statue's base along with other immigration memorabilia. The federal government had nothing to do with the plaque's creation or placement.

Rather than quote Lazarus' poem, Ms. Belschner should quote Earth Day Founder Gaylord Nelson, who said shortly before his death, "It's just a fact that we can't take everyone who wants to come here. And you don't have to be a racist to realize that." Even better, she might consider the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform (1990-1997) that included these words from chairwoman Barbara Jordan: "Those who shouldn't be here will be required to leave."

The best way to help these children is to send them home with those of their parents and guardians here illegally and demand that the governments of those countries learn to provide for their own people. We are constantly urged by religious leaders and others to "open our hearts," which ultimately is followed by a call to open our wallets wider. This country would be far better off if more Americans instead opened their eyes to a federal government that thrives on our refusal to hold accountable those people we elect to represent us but increasingly behave as though their only constituents are the foreign-born.