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Misspent Energy on Illegal Immigration

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The immigration issue in Colorado is heating up once again with a couple of groups making noise this week asking for change. Illegal immigration will no doubt be one of the two or three most important issues in the 2006 election, and the issue has, in fairness, become enough of a problem that real reforms need to be discussed soon. But as I wrote about Tom Tancredo back in September, the people who want to talk loudest about reform aren’t proposing changes that actually make sense.

The Rocky Mountain News makes this point today in an editorial:

No one doubts that any serious effort to reform immigration laws will provoke a bitter congressional debate. But Congress has successfully tackled equally difficult issues – welfare reform in the 1990s, for example. For too long it has simply closed its eyes and ignored the growing clamor for action. So long as that’s the case, activists on the extremes will continue to dominate the headlines.

Yesterday a (small) group of activists demanded action from Governor Bill Owens. Their demands, however, are so extreme that they only serve to weaken their cause:

Activists delivered petitions to Gov. Bill Owens’ office Thursday, demanding that he declare a state of emergency and use sports arenas and former military bases as overflow detention centers for illegal immigrants awaiting deportation.

They also urged the governor to impose financial sanctions on any state employees who conduct official business in any language other than English.

Terry Graham, a Boulder County resident who drafted the petition, said several activists seeking a moratorium on immigration had been able to collect 160 signatures since Sept. 1.

“Many of us would have hoped that Governor Owens would have acted on this issue,” she said. “He hasn’t. He has been MIA (missing in action) on this issue.”

This is the same nonsense talk that plagues Tancredo. The Colorado Congressman wants all illegal immigrants to be deported, which is completely and utterly impossible. Forget for a moment whether you agree with him, because that proposal is so impractical that it isn’t even worth discussing. The United States has neither the resources nor the means to increase those resources to even consider mass deportations.

Now a group of activists want illegal immigrants in Colorado rounded up and thrown into sports arenas, basically as internment camps, to await deportation. That’s absurd. What is supposed to happen here? Colorado police officers will drive around the state in buses rounding up illegal immigrants, then drop them off at the Denver Coliseum where thousands of cots await them?

What these activists don’t realize is that they aren’t actually helping the cause. Supporters of Tancredo like to praise him for “keeping the debate in the forefront,” but nobody wants to criticize him for doing nothing to actually solve the problem. Tancredo, as I have written before, is actually in a position to make change as a congressman, but he doesn’t ever propose legislation that is realistic.

Illegal immigration is a problem that absolutely needs to be addressed. But it’s going to take small steps and a broader view of the process. “Rounding them all up” and enacting mass deportations isn’t only an impossible and, let’s be honest, a scary military state-like proposal, it doesn’t solve the problem. Until groups (and congressmen) are willing to look at the root of the problem and take a break from just screaming and waving their fists, we’re going to be mired in pointless debates and arguments that make no headway.

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