Commentary by Ron Miller
Before I moved to southern Maryland in 2001, I used to believe illegal immigration was a hot-button issue only in the border states and Florida because of their significant Hispanic communities. Over time, I've come to realize it's a national issue and even our idyllic corner of the world has to confront it. There are an estimated 250,000 illegal immigrants in Maryland, so we are not immune to the effects of national and state immigration policy.
That led me to examine the record of our local representatives at the national and state level to see how they've voted on illegal immigration legislation over the years.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md), the House Majority Leader, has been a loyal party-line voter on the illegal immigration issue. He voted against the border fence, and against reporting illegal immigrants who receive hospital treatment, and is on the record as a supporter of "comprehensive immigration reform," to include a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which "seeks to improve border security, to stop illegal immigration, and to promote immigration levels consistent with the national interest-more traditional rates of about 300,000 a year," gives Hoyer an overall rating of 0% - that's a goose egg - on the issues of importance to them.
The two immigration proposals with the highest profile at the Maryland State House over the past few General Assembly sessions are driver's licenses for illegal immigrants and in-state tuition at state colleges and universities for their children. Despite the byzantine manner in which the Maryland General Assembly keeps its records, I managed after some diligent Internet searching to glean some information on the voting records of our southern Maryland legislators on these issues.
Voting in 2007 for in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants were: Delegates Murray Levy and Peter Murphy from Charles County and John Bohanan from St. Mary's County. The Senate killed this bill in committee, and attempts in subsequent sessions to revive the measure haven't been successful.
Voting in 2009 for a two-tiered driver's license system that grants amnesty until 2015 to illegal immigrants currently holding driver's licenses were: Delegates Levy, Sally Jameson and Murphy from Charles County, Sue Kullen from Calvert County, and Senators Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, Roy Dyson and Thomas Middleton.
Delegate Bohanan of St. Mary's County did not vote on this bill. In fact, Miller, our long-time Senate president, had the Senate lined up to kill the bill but gave in to Governor O'Malley at the 11th hour - party loyalty over the will of the people, perhaps?
Voting "no" to both proposals were Delegate Johnny Wood of St. Mary's County and Tony O'Donnell of Calvert/St. Mary's County.
I think it's safe to say southern Maryland's elected officials, with the exceptions noted above, are in favor of transferring our tax dollars to illegal immigrants and relaxing restrictions on their presence in this country. The question, however, is "Why?"
On a continuum with anarchy on one end and totalitarianism on the other, we have chosen a republic which combines individual rights with the rule of law to ensure order as we exercise our liberty. The rule of law is what prevents nations from spiraling into chaos as a result of violence or excessive demands on a nation's economy. Those who want to characterize opponents of illegal immigration as racist or nativist are simply name-calling. These pejoratives don't characterize the majority of Americans, most of whom welcome immigrants who legally come to this country as evidence of our nation's desirability and a source of great pride.
By contrast, illegal aliens broke the law to be here, depress the low end of the employment market, deprive unskilled American labor of work opportunities, and receive taxpayer-funded benefits for which they are not eligible.
Compassion is not a rational justification for circumventing the rule of law. There are a thousand stories in the big city and at the heart of most of them are circumstances which would evoke compassion in most human souls. Nonetheless, when the law is broken, there are consequences and people must be held accountable for their wrongs.
Their work ethic isn't relevant, either. You say they take jobs Americans won't do? Tell that to the employees at a House of Raeford Farms poultry processing plant in North Carolina. After a subsidiary of the firm was cited by the federal government for hiring illegal immigrants as workers, the poultry-processing plant stopped hiring immigrants and fired hundreds more for false papers. The plant's workforce went from 80 percent Hispanic to 70 percent African-American workers almost overnight. Compliance with the law means more jobs for American citizens who don't seem to mind the work if the wages and benefits are fair.
What about the children, do you say? Some statistics estimate there may be as many as 2 million children in the U.S. who have one or more parents in prison or jail. Children pay an awful price for the sins of their fathers and mothers - the stigma of having a parent in jail, loss of financial support, broken families and, over the long term, delinquency and a mistrust of authority. I don't see a huge legislative push to release these lawbreakers so these children don't suffer, and there is certainly not a movement to transfer millions tax dollars to these unfortunate young ones.
So I come back to my central question: "Why?" When illegal immigration is accepted and tax dollars transferred to illegal aliens in the name of compassion, their work ethic, or their children, the end result looks a lot like the state of California, which is undergoing a major fiscal crisis and was at one point issuing IOUs for payment from the state.
There are sound reasons for us to control immigration into America - just like growth management by our local county commissions is designed to balance the demand for and availability of county services, we need to ensure our ability to manage the influx of people into our country so we don't go bankrupt.
We also need to defend our borders from criminals and terrorists who take advantage of our security weaknesses to enter our nation and wreak havoc. These are sound and legitimate objectives for our government to achieve and defend.
So why don't they? Ask your legislators next year as they come up for re-election why they want to turn a blind eye to illegal immigration. Don't accept the spin they're sure to give you, some of which I've characterized. Make them shoot straight with you or send them to find other employment if they don't - I'm sure there are jobs out there for them that most Americans won't do.