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Dear Editor:

I was suggesting that the numbers of diversity visas (50,000) and refugees (about 55,000) which are supposed to serve the ENTIRE world were low in comparison with the number of LEGAL immigrants from ONE country, Mexico (131,600). Ms. Flowers, in her previous letter, suggested that these categories should be sufficient to take care of the rest of the world's (other than Mexico's) immigrants.

While preferences for Mexico do not exist in law, they do in fact. The civil rights movement is built on the notion of de facto discrimination and segregation. As I recall and interpret (I was a little young to be interested in this at the time--lawyers please correct me), the mere fact that races are not represented in housing, education, or jobs in proportion to their representation in the overall population is enough to assume that discrimination exists. Even if laws and policies are not in and of themselves discriminatory. This notion still exists in affirmative action programs, in the form of acknowledged or unacknowledged quotas. Or in the notion that African-Americans or Hispanics (even though they're not technically a race, or even an ethnicity) "should be" represented in Oscar wins, in TV programs, or on the Supreme Court because of their relative share of the population. Or, in a recent case, that a jury could not be seated because it did not have enough Hispanics on it to represent the makeup of the community (this latter is based on Census data, which includes illegal immigrants and LPRs, even though they're not citizens and therefore not eligible for jury duty). Or that employers "should" have certain proportions of employees from certain racial and ethnic groups. With this view, the mere fact that Mexico dominates legal immigration, in comparison with the rest of the world's population, is enough to consider family reunification to be preferential and even discriminatory. Why should Mexico, with a population of about 100 million in 2001 (Statistical Abstract of the US, 2001, p. 832) have more immigration to the US than countries such as Pakistan (145 million), Nigeria (127 million), or India (over a billion)? An answer is that the family reunification program favors immigration from countries which have large numbers of recent immigrants here. This favoritism is self-perpetuating, in that we allow sponsorship beyond the nuclear family of husband, wife, and kids.

Of course, Ms. Flowers' did indicate in a previous letter than she believes there shouldn't be ethnic preferences, and I agree with her. We shouldn't be looking for equal outcomes, but equal opportunity. And right now, family reunification does not allow equal opportunity. It rewards the relatively few families (in comparison with the number of families in their home countries) who manage to get a relative here, legally or illegally. For example, in the early 1960s, we began to get immigration of highly educated and skilled workers from India. In subsequent years, we're getting the less skilled brothers, sisters, and in-laws of these workers--solely because they're related to the initial entrant. And, illegal immigrants, who we want to "legalize" so that they can then sponsor THEIR relatives. Personally, I favor more of a "points system" in which weight would be given to knowledge of English, skills needed by the job market (including the possibility that unskilled labor might be needed as well), education, and yes, a family sponsor here.

Ali Alexander

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