The Lowcountry Immigration Coalition, a nonprofit organization based in the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton area, is proud to stand in support of national, state and local groups in opposition to the recently passed South Carolina anti-immigrant law.
This action is based on the U.S. Constitution, Article VI, Clause 2, which notes its purpose is "the invalidation of state laws when it conflicts with federal law." Contrary to opinions offered elsewhere, the U.S. Justice Department and organizations noted above have a constitutional right and responsibility to oppose such laws. We oppose this law because it is unconstitutional and because it not only encourages, but also assures, discrimination against an entire population based on racial profiling.
The issue of immigration is a complex matter that requires rational thinking and a clear understanding of issues -- not demonizing an entire class of human beings. History teaches us that when things start to falter in society, people look for others to blame. Just as hospitality is an ancient virtue, scape-goating is an ancient vice.
Why do people come to America? They come for a better life for themselves and their families and to escape grinding poverty and lack of opportunity that prevent them from achieving anything other than a meager existence with no hope or promise of a better life. Doesn't this sound exactly like the same reasons many of our ancestors came to America? People today continue to come to this country for the same reason -- the American dream. The latest influx comes primarily because people can walk into the U.S., in spite of the daunting difficulties in crossing the border, including heat, thirst, capture and even death.
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Make no mistake, the border is already very difficult to cross despite calls for additional fencing and border patrol efforts. In fact, the current administration has done more to secure the border than any previous federal effort.
However, we will not be a truly civilized nation if we don't deal judiciously with the many millions who already exist in this country, many of whom are children, citizens born in the U.S., in accordance with the Constitution's 14th Amendment.
The vast majority of undocumented workers in our nation generally keep to themselves, often work at menial jobs that many Americans no longer want to do, pay taxes into a system from which they will not benefit, aren't involved in criminal behavior and actually learn English faster than many previous ethnic groups.
Recently, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration reported that undocumented immigrants, over the past 10 years, may have paid as much as $230 billion into the Social Security trust fund, essentially subsidizing a system from which they will never collect benefits. No matter how well intended, enforcement-only efforts won't solve our dilemma. The concept of "round them up and send them back" is an immoral, un-American philosophy. Any such activity would make the United States a pariah to the rest of the civilized world.
Immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, by law, are entitled to health care under the Emergency Medical Treatment Act of 1986, which "requires hospitals to provide care to anyone needing emergency health care services regardless of citizenship, legal status, or ability to pay." This law was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. Likewise, in the matter of education, children presented for schooling are entitled to such services in accordance with the Supreme Court decision in Plyler v. Doe.
Let us be clear, we are not calling for so-called amnesty under comprehensive immigration reform. Under this approach, any criminal elements must be rooted out and deported expeditiously as is currently being done. Individuals would need to register, be required to pay back taxes and possibly pay a fine for entering the U.S. in the first place. This fine would expunge their "crime" and allow them to join the United States as full citizens over a period of time.
America is, has been and will be in the future, a nation of immigrants. Those now in our country will make this a better, brighter, more economically secure nation. It is time for comprehensive immigration reform