Opinion

Dave's doings

Changes needed to immigration system

On Facebook one night, a friend posed an interesting question which has stayed with me. He asked, “How do we determine the number of people who can immigrate to our country each year? It can’t be everyone and it can’t be no one.” I stammered to come up with a halfway intelligent answer. The best I could do on short notice was to comment on the country’s infrastructure and the job market and how many additional people it could hold. Lame!

The immigration issue seems to be a really divisive one anymore. President Donald Trump promised during his campaign to build a wall to keep out illegal immigrants, to the degree of allowing a government shutdown in an attempt to get the wall funded. There are plenty of people in the nation who wish to see him keep his promise, citing drugs and crime by illegal immigrants from south of our border. President Trump has declared Democrats want “open borders,” although current legislation says otherwise, showing Democrats support border security, but not the wall. In the latter part of last year caravans of immigrants arrived at the border demanding entry to the United States and presumably didn’t care what the American people had to say about it. The caravans split, with some of the people seeking residence in Mexico, some illegally crossing the U.S. border and some seeking asylum (requirements for asylum are people who are persecuted due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion) in the U.S.

Now a GoFundMe page has been created to raise money to build the wall. I like the concept in theory and would like to see crowdfunding used on more government projects to see if they should go ahead or not. If enough people want a project, they could just contribute to it while others who don’t want the project can just ignore it. The campaign has raised over $16 million so far, with the goal of $1 billion. Estimates to build the 1,933-mile wall put the cost between $8 billion and $70 billion. As a comparison, the farm bill that was passed last year has $199 billion in spending.

Before I go any further, I want to point out the campaign was started by a man named Brian Kolfage, a disabled Iraqi veteran from Florida. I don’t know how he intends to deliver the money to the federal government for the wall, nor do I know that it won’t just go into the general fund and be used for whatever. If you do want to donate to this, the address is: https://www.gofundme.com/TheTrumpWall?pc=tw_dn_cpgntopnavlarge_r%20&%20rcid=r01-154523939827-1677106c69ad4ca3

I have also spoken with people locally who have told me due to the immigration stance of the Trump administration, many people IN WASHINGTON, IOWA feel unsafe in their own homes and fear being deported, no matter their immigration status — up to and including people who were born in the United States. I think it is fairly safe to say the majority of people in the U.S. are against illegal immigration, but this is unacceptable. People living and working legally should not have reason to fear our own government.

In Mt. Pleasant last year 32 people were arrested for immigration violations at the Midwest Precast Concrete plant. This occurred a few short weeks before news of parent-children separation at the borders made headlines. In the aftermath, the community was divided with many supporting their neighbors who were arrested while others supported immigration laws.

In my experience, you learn more about an issue by learning from people who actually are involved with it. I recently covered a presentation by Joseph Lyons, a Washington native who volunteered to help give legal aid to asylum-seekers at a facility in Dilley, Texas. He told of thousands of people being held in a prively owned facility manned by government waiting for the chance to petition for asylum. According to the Pro Bono for Dilley website, only between 6 and 14 percent of petitioners have access to legal counsel. He described the conditions the people lived in and their reasons for coming to the U.S. Many of the situations he described were heartbreaking.

People wishing to learn more about this or to volunteer can go to: https://www.immigrationjustice.us.

After the presentation, I was visiting with a very nice woman about the topic. She told me that the current situation we are in did not come up overnight. It has been going on for decades. It won’t be solved overnight either. Still, the publicity the mainstream media is giving the southern border brings light to the problems so we can actually start addressing them. That is the healthiest attitude about the controversy I have heard.

We have a problem with our immigration system. The process for getting legal immigrants into the United States is slow and clunky. It needs to be streamlined. We also need to work on a system to determine who can immigrate. At that point it is simply a matter of comparing the application for entry to the U.S. with the law and if they match, the person is allowed in. If it doesn’t they are deported. We may also consider a first-come, first-served policy in the event we wish to limit the number of people who can immigrate each year. Be sure to make this known.

Immigration reform needs to be something that is on the table and discussed, with laws on the books so everyone knows what is expected, not just an emphasis on enforcement based on who is in office (raids such as the Mt. Pleasant raid were de-emphasized during President Barack Obama’s administration). I realize this is a lot to ask, but career politicians need to focus on what is best for the country and not just what their political base wants.