Such a knee jerk reaction is exactly that – an immediate, emotional reaction to a highly sensitive event, not one that is based on reason. The world is no doubt a different place after 9/11. Indeed, we need to take every threat seriously and cannot delay our response – but the response must be one based on reason, not stereotypes or xenophobia. We should not allow the few “bad apples” to undermine the fundamental tenets upon which our immigration policy was founded: (1) family unification; (2) providing fair and lawful ways for American businesses to hire much-needed immigrant workers who help our economy prosper, while protecting U.S. workers; and (3) providing a safe haven for a certain number of those who are persecuted for their religious beliefs or political opinions in their home country.
The fact of the matter is that we do need to take a long, hard look at our immigration system—a system which is in need of a major overhaul. Indeed, America deserves realistic solutions to address border security and immigration reform, consistent with American values. That means reform that is comprehensive, tough and smart but also fair. Along these lines, key Democratic leaders recently unveiled a proposed outline for a comprehensive immigration reform bill. The REPAIR proposal includes provisions that will (a) secure our borders, (b) protect all U.S. workers and their wages and prevent exploitation of immigrant workers; (c) reunite families and (d) allow immigrants who pay taxes and do not have a criminal record an opportunity to earn a path to U.S. citizenship.
An attempted terrorist act by an immigrant who has been recently naturalized may indeed be a wake-up call for an examination of certain aspects of our broken immigration system. Engaging in openly xenophobic knee-jerk fear mongering, however, is not the answer. Let us not allow a repeat of the disgraceful periods in our country’s short history where we maligned entire groups of people (e.g., the Chinese in the late 19th century, the Italian and Irish in the early 20th century, and Japanese in mid 20th century) for the sins of a few. Instead, let us overcome the political stalemate of the last decade and implement an immigration policy that advances 21st century American interests and protects our core traditional values as a generous, welcoming nation deeply committed to the rule of law.
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Post Authored By: Anthony F. Siliato, Esq. and Scott R. Malyk, Esq. of Meyner and Landis LLP