This St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll be thinking about two things.
One of those things is UD, and it makes me kind of sad, because as a co-op student who is working far away from school, I’m going to miss out on that beautiful sea of green on Sunday. Have fun and be safe, my friends. I would tell you to stay classy, but when you’re rocking kelly green from head to toe, you really can’t have it any other way.
The other thing I’ll be thinking about – and this one makes me hopeful – is immigration. As a holiday that, for much of the United States, celebrates the contributions of our Irish-American brothers and sisters, St. Patrick’s Day is an example of just one of the many incredible things that newcomers bring to this country.
What’s even more exciting this year, however, are the shifting political winds that might finally make immigration reform a reality, hopefully resulting in increased border security and legal status for the estimated 11 to 13 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
There is a cruel duality at work when it comes to the politics of illegal immigration in the U.S. On the one hand, we have a legal right to secure our borders, and a responsibility to defend the economic and physical security of current residents.
But what moral right do we really have to keep someone out of the country? If someone is so eager and/or desperate to come to the U.S., whether to work or raise a family, that they are willing to get smuggled across the border in the back of a van or inside a tanker, climb fences, face armed guards, natural and man-made obstacles, and eventually a life in perpetual fear of deportation, if they are willing to face all of that just to live in this country, then isn’t that the kind of person we want living here? Someone who believes so strongly in the promise that America holds that they are willing to risk their lives to get here?
Is it against the law? Yes. Does that make it un-American? Probably not, because America was built by people like that to begin with – people who, legally or illegally, risked their lives to come here because they hoped it would offer them a chance at a better life.
Our immigration policy, therefore, must balance our responsibility to those who live here now legally, and our responsibility to live up to our reputation as a nation of immigrants.
It has to ensure that our border security will continue to grow stronger, as it has over the last few years, so that we can better control who and what is coming into and out of the country.
It also has to make legal immigration more accessible, to doctors and engineers as well as to those with less education. We need more people with technical skills, but we also need the enthusiasm and new ideas that all immigrants can bring, regardless of their educational or socioeconomic level.
Finally, it has to give legal status to those who came to this country illegally, but there also needs to be a price for that status. Part of being a legal resident of the U.S. is following the law, and illegal immigration, while sometimes an honorable act, is still against the law. Whether it’s a fine or an extended wait for citizenship, there has to be a penalty for breaking the law, but it will at least give people a chance to repay their debt to society and live outside of the shadows.
So this St. Patrick’s Day, call your representatives in Congress. Scratch that, the day after St. Patrick’s Day, call your representatives in Congress, and tell them that now is the time to reform our immigration system. There are millions of future Americans counting on you.