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Canít We Try To Just Get Along?

by Vance Winningham

Recently, I have heard all manner of disparaging remarks concerning "illegal" immigration. Most made no distinction between legal and illegal immigration. I will address this oversight only in passing with mention of the long list of foreign born American citizens awarded Nobel prizes, etc. Let me make clear at the outset that after practicing immigration law for about 35 years, I am opposed to open borders and believe everyone should only enter the US "legally".

Employing undocumented workers was federally outlawed in 1986 as a provision in Regan's amnesty legislation. Nevertheless, many U.S. businesses continued to spread their "Help Wanted" message beyond our borders without regard for how workers might enter the U.S. These employers have done so with almost complete immunity because our elected representatives have refused to insist upon enforcement of the law. Many employers have done so to remain in business when there were no U.S. workers willing to accept their on-site, labor-intensive jobs (jobs that can't be out-sourced to India) even at fair wages. The consumers' single-minded drive for lower price has contributed to the problem (think Wal-Mart), and our politicians have only exacerbated the difficulties by failing to adequately revise and expand existing legal temporary worker programs to accommodate these economic changes. Instead, they basically swept this ever-increasing problem under the rug, apparently fearful of there chances at reelection should an opponent make the claim that "the incumbent voted to take jobs away from America's sons and daughters!" I think their fears were well founded.

These millions of "illegal" aliens didn't arrive in just the last few years, but over the past two decades.  These issues have been elevated to hysterical levels in the public arena out of our current fears and frustrations borne of 9/11 and perfected in Iraq. I haven't seen such an atmosphere of fear, hate-mongering, racism, profiling, and proliferation of "Jim Crow"-type laws since the beginning of the civil rights movement (remember the fire hoses and federal troops escorting black students in Little Rock?).  I won't even try to address the multitude of horrors inflicted on Native Americans.

Imagine you were the head of a poor household in Mexico, and you wanted to provide more for your wife, children and for yourself.  Would you not respond to job opportunities in the United States, as have so many millions of others like you?  If you would not, I doubt you would earn much respect or admiration from those around you.
Until our current immigration mess, to which we have all contributed, is straightened out by reasonable people and their elected representatives in a sane and humane manner (legalization, secure alien ID, future strict enforcement), can't we try to just get along?

This article was first published in The Oklahoman.

About The Author

Vance Winningham is a member of the first Board of Trustees of the American Immigration Law Foundation. He has been listed for more than 10 consecutive years in The Best Lawyers in America ©. Mr. Winningham is also former Chairman of the Texas - Oklahoma - New Mexico Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and founder and Administrator of internet based network of prominent immigration lawyers (

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.