All Maine Matters

May 2006



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Good Immigration Policy Starts With Building A Fence
by Jeff Lukens

Polling results are clear. Upwards of 80% of Americans want the federal government to get tougher on illegal immigration. While politicians pander to cheap labor and cheap votes, we the taxpayers pick up the tab for increased health-care, education, and other social services. As for dollars and the social fabric of our nation, cheap labor may not be so cheap after all.

While almost everyone welcomes legal immigrants to America, we know we can assimilate only so many newcomers at one time. The solution to our illegal immigration problem begins with controlling the border, and controlling the border means building a fence.

The income gap between the U.S. and Mexico is the largest between any two neighboring countries in the world. The Mexican economy does not provide living wages for its growing population, and their solution is to export their poor to our country.

No previous group of immigrants has had such a large inflow or access to their home country that this latest group has today. That’s because no previous wave of immigrants could walk across our borders.

Earlier groups crossed oceans to come here and were assimilated into the culture in a gradual and measured way. This latest wave quite literally has only to walk right in, and they are doing so in a big way.

Most illegals do not conduct themselves like immigrants of the past. Okay, they work hard, but they are here against our laws and generally have little interest in learning English or the ways of our culture. Illegals generally come here merely to find a job, not necessarily to become citizens. And now they are protesting our generosity and good will.

These attitudes are offensive, and are the reason why most Americans want the border controlled. This is not about racism. It is about a distortion of the process that appalls African, Asian and other ethnic groups who are legally waiting in line to come here.
Once in the U.S., sending illegals back has become nearly impossible. With legal restrictions and limited enforcement resources, even when we catch them they are often released back on U.S. soil as if nothing happened. If we don’t address this problem properly, in 20 years we may have an exponential number, say 20 or 30 million more illegals, to deal with.

The president has provided no leadership in this whole mess. Moreover, Congress refuses to let the INS enforce existing laws for fear of offending illegals as prospective new voters, or the political contributors who employ them. Until they understand that this new group is not behaving like traditional immigrants, public anger over the situation will continue to grow.

We should not allow Mexico to export their poverty as a way to avoid economic and social reform. Ultimately, this problem will not go away until Mexico reforms its systemic government and societal corruption, and their people can live prosperously in their own country.

So far, all efforts to secure the border have failed. Our priority should be enforcing our laws and not rewarding those who break them. More patrols alone will not do the job. Who knows, whatever funding is provided this year may be cut next year, and we are right back where we started. We need something tangible.

Our elected officials talk tough but do nothing. In plain English, enforcement at the border means building the fence. They need to authorize it, fund it, and start building it. We can even contract Mexican labor to do the work.

No, a fence will not stop illegal aliens from coming. It will be controversial and expensive, but it will reduce their flow to a manageable level. Once it is in place and we restore order, our ability to handle guest worker programs and related issues grows immensely. We really cannot address any other issue related to immigration until our border security is first restored.

There is an old saying that good fences make for good neighbors. This truism has never been more applicable than with our Southern neighbor. Good fences make good immigration policy too.

We have a proud history of accepting the world’s poor in a system designed to provide gradual assimilation of new citizens into our language and culture. We need to control our border and allow that process to happen properly.

Jeff Lukens writes engaging opinion columns from a fresh, conservative point of view. He is also a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc., a non-profit (501c3) coalition of writers and grass-roots media outlets. He can be contacted through his website at

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