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Dear Editor:

What a crop of letters yesterday!

First, Ms. Bowen appears to believe that immigration to the US is the way to give everyone in the world a decent life. She seems to be totally discounting that foreign aid and foreign policy would be more productive in improving the standard of living for the entire world than importing even the million or so immigrants we currently get each year. The US could and should certainly do more than it has in regard to aid and policy - beginning with funding population control programs even if they include abortion information. But beggaring ourselves by accepting massive numbers of people who simply don't have the ability to support themselves in our economy...a Jewish philosopher put it succinctly: "If I am not for myself, who am I...if I am only for myself, what am I". A nice statement of enlightened self-interest.

Furthermore, Ms. Bowen is absolving immigrants of any responsibility for their role in what their home countries are like. She seems to believe that it is some "other" which is imposing genital mutlilation, forced marriages, plural marriages, subjugation of women, and the like on immigrants. Actually, immigrants have been bringing these values with them when they immigrate--to the point that countries such as France are feeling it necessary to write laws to deal with what were formerly unknown problems. Most of the conflicts in the world these days are basically civil wars, between rival ethnic or religious groups, not wars between nations. Who is responsible for these, if not the citizens of these countries? And who will change these countries and the practices Ms. Bowen finds so offensive, if not the citizens themselves? Should every one of them immigrate?

This also ties in with Ms. Hall's comments about assimilation. She alludes to the previous waves of immigration and the assimilation of these immigrants as justification for believing that the current immigrants will eventually assimilate. She fails to recognize that there are important differences between the immigration we are now experiencing and previous waves (if she were a bit more assimilated, she might have more of a sense of American history). The first difference is that the immigrants we are now getting, particularly from Asia and the Middle East, have values which are significantly different from those in the US. Most people think of assimilation (and multiculturalism) in terms of food, dress, and language--those are pretty superficial. What is really important, in my opinion, are values. For example: In response to a letter of mine about how legalization of illegal immigrants violates our ideas of law and order, someone from Eastern Europe wrote in supporting legalization to benefit her relatives. Another immigrant, from the same area, wrote in suggesting that because the laws is held in such low esteem in Eastern Europe (corruption and bribery are apparently the norm), that this woman apparently had no faith in law and order here. That's precisely the sort of thing we should be concerned about: getting large numbers of immigrants who can function in our society but don't share some of our core values and most important, are never really "taught" or encouraged to learn them. Other "core" US values include the belief that one can "master" nature--one is sufficiently intelligent and able to find solutions, rather than "leaving it to God", and individualism and personal responsibility, rather than relying on the State to provide. Or on equality of races and the sexes (ironically, immigrants can be as racist as anyone else--more so perhaps, if they come from very racially homogenous societies). Not everyone born in the US holds these values, but enough of us do that they help characterize us and probably account for a lot of our success as a nation.

A second major difference between current and previous immigration waves is that previous immigrants were essentially cut off from their home countries when they came here. They couldn't just pick up the phone or get on the internet to keep in touch. They couldn't get on a plane and be "home" in a few hours. There weren't ethnic TV channels, which they could use as their sole source of news and information. And there weren't so many of them, that they could totally avoid getting out of their own communities if they wanted to. Their presidents didn't come here and encourage them to retain their ethnic identity - and dual citizenship. Nor did our federal and state governments accommodate them by being required to offer services such as driving tests and welfare in their own languages. Being cut off forced assimilation in previous waves. We don't have that now.

Finally, previous waves of immigration were followed by time outs, and were accompanied by specific programs of Americanization. We don't have that now, and if "multiculturalists" have their way, we won't. What we should be concerned about is preserving the American culture (yes, we have one), not that of every immigrant. Frankly, do we really want to risk an experiment with "multiculturalism", which may cost us the very things we value (free speech, law and order, stable government) if it fails?

Dr. Baer is making his usual pitch for legalizing illegal Mexicans. He seems to have a profound belief that George Bush's actions reflect the will of the American people and obligate us to support whatever promises he makes. They don't. Even members of his own party recognize that he is "vote grubbing" and acting in his own perceived political interest. A president who has a mandate doesn't have to try to sneak measures such as 245i through Congress by attaching it to appropriations legislation or border security measures.

Concerning Didorsi's letter - If the young man had been a citizen, he could not have been deported. Didorsi said his neighbor's son was six months old when the family came, and he was convicted at age 19. In 18 years, his father did not become a citizen (which would have naturalized his son) even though it generally takes only 5 years. Apparently, living here was not important enough to them that they chose to become citizens.

The same thing just came up today, about an agreement that Justice has signed with Cambodia to return about 2,000 people who are eligible for deportation because of a deportable crime in their records. Again, many of these were offenders who had been brought here as children, but were never naturalized. I really do have to question the commitment to this country of people who are here (presumably legally) for such long lengths of time, but don't feel it necessary to naturalize. And then, to commit criminal acts on top of that...

Ali Alexander