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Dear Editor:

In his recent letter, Dr. Baer referred to my comment about encouraging the formation of "voting blocs," originally his term. I certainly believe in the right of US citizens of Hispanic descent to express their views, all 22.3 million of them--just as I believe in MY right to do so. Or of any other person or ethnic or racial bloc to do so. Though I do sometimes wonder if the so-called spokespeople for these so-called blocs really represent anyone's interest other than their own desire for political power. Do they, for example, represent my native-born, second-generation "Hispanic" nephews and niece, who don't speak any Spanish and only identify themselves as "Hispanic" on Census and affirmative action forms? Who were adopted and raised by my brother after their Hispanic father walked out on them and my brother married their mother? And who are themselves married to non-Hispanics and have children who will grow up speaking only English?

What I object to is when the supposed interests of those blocs come at the expense of social cohesion and equal opportunity for everyone. What I object to is when the "ethnic" part of the hyphenate "___ - American" is more important than the "American," or when the American identification is not there at all. We are already seeing on college campuses and in places such as California the resegregation of America along ethnic and racial lines--this time because of the preferences of the ethnic groups and discrimination by the ethnic groups themselves. It is my opinion that it is not in the best interests of the US for immigration policy to contribute to this trend by admitting the current high level of immigrants, or by legalizing those here illegally. In the first instance, large numbers from one ethnic group hinder efforts at assimilation; in the second, immigrants who came here illegally violate our principles of law and fair play and do not share our most important values (even though we certainly don't always practice them!). It is an opinion shared by the majority of the American public, including many Hispanics, who have indicated their desire for reduced levels of immigration and/or opposition to amnesty in public opinion polls.

Dr. Baer later quotes me again, about making it possible for low-skilled immigrants to come here legally. The difference is that I suggested changes in the green card system which would place the onus on the employer to sponsor and support the immigrant, and to prove that citizen employees could not in fact be found. Dr. Baer's plea for amnesty is not only unfair to citizens and those waiting to come legally, but it also places the onus on society to provide for the immigrant. For example, C. Munoz of La Raza was recently complaining in the press that President Bush's proposed reduction of the requirement for legal immigrants to get welfare from ten to five years of working in the US was NOT sufficient. She apparently wants abolition of the requirement. Why? Because so many Hispanic immigrants have been here for less than five years, and simply can't support themselves even when they're working. Even those here legally many years use welfare at a rate higher than citizens. How many of those Dr. Baer would give amnesty to would immediately be eligible for means-based programs if Ms. Munoz had her way?

Finally, the crux of the matter is that AMNESTY IN and OF ITSELF WILL DO NOTHING TO STOP FUTURE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. It will, in fact, act as an incentive to future illegal immigrants expecting another amnesty. Supposedly, the Mexican government is promising tighter enforcement of drug and illegal immigration flows to the US on its side in return for President Bush's support of legalization. However, the corruption endemic to Mexico is likely to hinder any meaningful efforts at reducing these flows. Also, repatriations by Mexican workers here in the US are a major source of income for Mexico and are a good incentive for Mexico NOT to hinder illegal immigration. If Mexico wants amnesty for its citizens here, let it PROVE FIRST that it can live up to its word and eliminate both drug and immigrant smuggling. As for others here illegally, overstayers and the like, reform the INS and its procedures FIRST to track and reduce these numbers. If Dr. Baer and politicians in both Mexico and the US could prove to us that amnesty would stop illegal immigration, I'd support it in a minute. But it didn't stop illegal immigration after 1986, and there is every reason to believe that it won't do it now.

Ali Alexander