OPPOSING SIDES OF GEORGIA’S IMMIGRATION DEBATE SHOULD UNITE TO FORCE CONGRESS TO DO ITS JOB

When about 200 protesters gathered outside Georgia’s Gold Dome last week to support or oppose the passage of a law devised to crack down on the state’s illegal immigrant population, there were the usual signs and shouts that go with public debate over citizenship.

In the midst of the anger and passion, it was almost impossible to remember the common ground shared by even the most fringe characters of the two sides, those who vehemently oppose giving any kind of legal status to illegal immigrants, and those who want open borders.

What common ground? The recognition of the fact that the federal government, under Clinton, Bush and now Obama, has taken a shameful pass on a problem that is squarely its own to solve.

In Georgia, the two sides of the national debate are most clearly represented by D.A. King, often described by Jerry Gonzalez as an anti-immigration activist (and sometimes as a convicted felon), and Jerry Gonzalez, who is often described by King as any number of not very flattering things the most mild of which is an open-borders supporter. King is the head of the Dustin Inman Society, and Gonzalez, his nemesis, is the head of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. The talk between the two often gets ugly, but any hope for a sane approach to immigration issues relies upon them, and others like them, coming together to force the federal government to do its job.

Georgia’s recent move to adopt an Arizona-style measure requiring identity documentation and the deputizing of local police to enforce federal immigration laws was an act of desperation, as was clear from the comments of weary legislators who said “The federal government has failed us.”

Both sides—people like King and Gonzalez—have been utterly abandoned by a government that lacks the integrity and courage to solve the problem because the problem itself has become a political tool used to garner votes and money.

Both sides—people like King and Gonzalez—have been utterly abandoned by a government that lacks the integrity and courage to solve the problem because the problem itself has become a political tool used to garner votes and money.

Arizona and Georgia have no business making immigration laws. They have been forced to do so because Congress and our president will not. And yet, President Obama, well-educated, intelligent, and the son of an immigrant himself, may be the best positioned of all our presidents to tackle the issue. He should do it. As presidential legacies go, immigration reform would be a quite a feat.

America’s immigration system is a world-renowned mess, and certainly not just because of our nation’s switch in the way it views Mexico and Latin America, not just because of the “new” threat of terrorism, not just because of the development of the global marketplace. It is also a mess because of documented abuses by American immigration officials, the tacit use of green-card slavery among business owners, and even the government itself. It is also a mess because of perfectly legal, though inflexibly illogical, provisions in applying for citizenship.

One real-life example of its many pitfalls is the tearing apart of a Polish-American family (pictured above) chronicled in the documentary Tony & Janina’s American Wedding” which will premier this evening at 6:30 p.m. at the Plaza Theatre on Ponce de Leon Avenue. Tony and Janina Wasilewski, after 18 years of marriage, raising a family, owning a home and running a business, were forcefully separated when Janina and their six year old son were deported. Ironically, she had fled Communist Poland to come to America.

CAN THEY DO IT?

Our citizenship process was bound to become a roiling disaster when, in the 1960s, the State Department set out to make immigration a tool for racial equality, designating a roughly 7-percent contribution of immigrants to America from each one of Earth’s nations, sort of, kinda, maybe; State Department officials I’ve interviewed say quite freely that the number allowed from each country is in reality a moving target and the equation that set it up requires it to be so.

That’s the problem: Immigration to America has more to do with whims and guesswork, with who you know and how lucky you are, than with an orderly system that matches the needs of the country to the needs of those who want to come here.

It’s an end-sum equation and end sum immigration doesn’t work because it doesn’t take into account the changing face of the world, the way that nations dissolve and are reborn, how the population of economic refugees ebbs and flows. Think of how many new countries emerged after the break up of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s. How long did it take the State Department to get its immigration requirements aligned with that? They’re still not, not really. And what about the change in our border relations with Mexico? For most of our country’s history, Texans knew where the border was but they and their neighbors to the South meandered in and out of each other’s territory as if they were inhabitants of neighboring states rather than an internationally recognized border region. That changed as Mexico’s own fortunes have varied and as the U.S. has taken less of an interest in making sure Mexico remains stable—essentially capitulating to those who claim we meddle too much, a faction of naïfs who refuse to accept that any country that borders another has a vested interest in the welfare of its neighbor.

The answer is for groups like King’s and Gonzalez’s to get together on the points they find least acrimonious, craft some compromises and present a united front in pushing for immigration reform in Congress. For example:

  • A strong border. Neither side disputes that America’s border needs to provide defense against terrorists, drug dealers, human traffickers and other criminals.
  • A fast-track to citizenship for those who risk their lives as soldiers in the American military.
  • Recognition of English as the official language of the United States. Most academics agree that language must be a uniting factor, not just for the ease of the American majority, but for the legal protection of immigrants. Sen. Johnny Isakson, one of the few politicians in Washington who has actually taken a firm and moral stand on the matter, has said that we have a responsibility to teach English to the children in our schools. He wisely didn’t offer any qualifiers to that; in the context of language, it doesn’t matter how they got here, it is in my best interest and yours that people who live in this country speak the language.
  • Replace simple birthright citizenship with a more European-style concept of  a “genuine connection” to American society. This provision, as explained by Yale University law professor Peter Schuck in the New York Times last August, would “give birthright citizenship to children of illegal immigrants who have lived in the country for some time — Britain, for example, requires 10 years and no long absences from the country. Congress should do likewise, perhaps conditioning birthright citizenship on a certain number of years of education in American schools; such children could apply for citizenship at, say, age 10. The children would become citizens retroactively, regardless of their parents’ status.”

Can King and Gonzalez do it? Can two groups who have said and done terrible things to each other for so long come to terms for the greater good? If they did, they would set a shining example for others throughout the country. Granted, the suggestions above are only a few areas of near-mutual consent, but these small steps for Congress would be a giant step for America. SR

10 thoughts on “OPPOSING SIDES OF GEORGIA’S IMMIGRATION DEBATE SHOULD UNITE TO FORCE CONGRESS TO DO ITS JOB

  1. Stephanie,

    Thank you for this thought provoking article. Yes, I will agree that there needs to be some compromise in this debate. However, some things are clearly non-negotiable.

    To begin with, I represent an organization whose mission is to enhance civic engagement and leadership development of the Latino community across our great state. Through our efforts, we have seen the Latino electorate grow from only 10,000 in January 2003 to well over 160,000. In addition, through our efforts of promoting active participation of ALL people in our most recent 2010 Census, Georgia gained additional influence in Congress through an additional seat—much of which will likely be attributed to the growth of the Latino and immigrant population. Lastly, but not all, we have also trained well over 300 community members across the state on how to be better leaders within their own communities through our GALEO Institute for Leadership.

    Donald Arthur King is a convicted felon, for inter-state gambling charges—this he does not deny and it is a simple fact. I am not disparaging him in any way. I am simply reminding people of his status as a convicted felon. Secondly, his organization has been labeled “extremist” by the well-respected Anti-Defamation League and a “nativist” from the well-respected Southern Policy Law Center.

    http://www.adl.org/civil_rights/anti_immigrant/da_king.asp

    http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2005/winter/the-nativists-0?page=0,10

    Yes, we must find common ground on the debate of immigration. Yes, we can agree that the federal government, led by President Obama, has failed to come up with a cohesive and enforceable immigration policy that makes sense, ensure we uphold our values as Americans and especially moves us forward together as a nation. We must also find common ground that we will not deport 10-12 million undocumented immigrants already living amongst us as neighbors and contributing workers in our economy.

    Yes, we should recognize that English is the language of success and we should work to ensure many of the immigrants who come here also learn and apply their English skills. However, there is no need for “English-only” or “English” as an official language of the United States. What we will see in the 2010 Census results once they are all finally released is that the Latino community is a growing and vibrant part of this nation’s future that must be respected. These types of “English-only” provisions are an insult to our culture.

    Regarding the birthright citizenship issue, again this one is non-negotiable. It is decades of juris prudence and also enshrined in the 14th Amendment of the constitution that any child born on U.S. soil is a U.S. citizen. There really is no need to re-interpret the 14th Amendment as it already has been interpreted by the framers of the 14th Amendment (they tried and failed at the time to exclude immigrant children already) and also decades of interpretation by the U.S. Supreme Court. To alter the meaning would require a Constitutional Amendment, and that is highly unlikely due to the growth and strength of the Latino and immigrant population.

    We must agree that failure of the federal government to produce a workable immigration policy does not provide a vigilante opportunity for states to do their own immigration policies. It makes no sense to have 50 different sets of policies with regards to immigration. Yes, our borders need to be secured, but I would argue we can further secure our borders through a comprehensive immigration reform plan. Sec. of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and former Sec. of Homeland Security under Bush (Chertoff) supported this.

    Most Americans believe there is enough common ground for us to move forward on immigration reform. Most Americans also demonstrate frustration about the failed attempts to move forward. However, we must do it in a manner which makes sense for our nation, while also respecting the contributions many immigrants make to our economy.

    I welcome the opportunity to engage in a substantive and concerted effort to find the middle ground. However, we must be mindful as to who we see as the appropriate “representatives” of the opposing sides.

    Thank you once again.

  2. “We must also find common ground that we will not deport 10-12 million undocumented immigrants already living amongst us as neighbors and contributing workers in our economy”.

    Is that common ground? Personally Mr. Gonzalez, this American would really love to move to Spain (not Mexico) and live/work there. No questions asked – unfortunatlety, not really an option (except by the very difficult means of legal immigration (in other words not going to happen) – for me to expect their government to take me in and accept me just beacuse I decided I wanted to live their and make it my home. When does it stop. How can the US continue to support poor undoumented citizens from mexico and beyond?

    I am all for extending Visa’s and reform for highly educated people from any country. But when we take an influx of poor, uneducated people, who perpepuate their socioeconic problems they left behind: high illteracy rates, high birth rates, lack of helath insurnace and so on. How does accepting the World’s poor really help our Country move forward? It does not.

    Simply put- we should allow temporary work visa for poor unskilled workers. Save the permanent status for the educated lot.
    Thank you very much!

    Stories upon stories of people sick in our hospitals and The Mexican Emabassy won’t answer the calls to return them home: why becuase in Mexico you need mioney for medical care…

  3. I like how you call them undocumented…..when in fact they are illegal. If they enter this country and do so illegally then they should be sent back to there country of origin. Period. Nice of you to toss out someones criminal history, actually its quite funny….you are using it to gain favor for your cause of defending criminals. As for calling the Anti-Defamation or Southern Policy Law Center well respected…..well I guess we are all entitled to our own opinions.
    As for the states taking on there own problems, it is quite clear that the federal government is not capable, or willing to tackle this problem so what should we do, ignore it?ope it just goes away? As for them being productive members of our community, and neighbors really? How much are they contributing when the are paid in cash, don’t insure there vehicles, don’t speak the language, pay no income taxes, and draw social security and welfare? Am I missing something here? Lets not begin to mention how people born and raised in this country are suffering in public schools because there are too many “non English” speaking students, and teachers have to cater to them first.
    My great grand parents came to this country legally, they waited studied and paid everything they were supposed to. They worked hard and instilled in my grand parents, and my parents that we are just a small part of the big picture. We were taught to work for the common good, and to fit in to be successful. Not to speak only our language, and demand that we be given welfare or any other hand out. In fact we were taught that it was a sign of failure, and shame. They studied learned the language and succeeded.

  4. @ Jerry Gonzalez

    1. Whether Donald King is a convicted felon and is considered an extremist by some does not invalidate his argument. This tactic of yours is shameful and clearly shows that you doubt the strength of your argument.

    2. I noticed that your argument is peppered with the word “non-negotiable.” You are not in the legal position to dictate to the US and Georgia governments what is negotiable and what is not.

    3. Regardless of how you paint your picture, there are millions of Hispanics illegally living in this country. Were they US citizens illegally living in Mexico, they would have long ago sent packing.

    4. Until the laws of the US and Georgia are changed, all citizens should insist that our present laws be enforced. This should be done regardless of the political fallout in Washington and Atlanta.

    5. As for your parting comment about the “appropriate” representatives of the side that opposes you, the citizens of the US will make that determination with no input needed from you.

  5. Jerry,
    While I could care less about someone being guilty of the petty crime you mention.

    I find it equally upsetting that you would use the ADL and the SPLC as accurate sources for your information. As we both know, those two orgainzations have their own agendas. The SPLC says anyone is a racist, xenophobe, nativist if they dont like open borders and illegal immigration. The SPLC has also had to remove people and groups from their lists over the years after being caught LYING about said person or group. So just how accurate are they really??

    I would think and hope that as an AMERICAN, you would be worried about who might walk over a border as wide open as both borders are. Are you not worried about a potential terrorist walking over? We know that on the desert floor in Arizona and on ranches in south Texas, middle eastern stuff has been found. Everything from the headwear, to the quran. mid east passports, and the patch showing a plane about to strike a tall skyscraper.

    Jerry, if the majority of those illegally in the US were not the same ethnic background as you are, would you be fighting as hard as you are doing??? I’m willing to bet that you would not.

    English is the official language of the American Government. that was designated by our forefathers.

    The 14th Amendment you mention has never gone before the supreme court, and those who wrote the bill never imagined the problem of illegal immigration as America faces today. You left out one part of the amendment that says “subject to the jurisdiction of” and people who are here illegally do not fall into this category.

    I will agree with you that we do need the borders to be secure. However, we do NOT need immigration reform or amnesty of any kind. To think they people illegally in the US will file back taxes, pay a fine, learn English, and all that stuff is just not anything the American people will accept. They tried this in 2005-2007 and the American people were so awake and called Capitol Hill so much that the phone system Collapsed.
    I do have a novel idea.. How about we ask the elected officials in DC to enforce existing immigration laws on the books now.

    Hey Jerry, let the US Adopt the same langauge and same laws as the Mexican Immigration Laws. Would you like that?????

    An existing discussion works great on both sides until the name calling starts. That is when the person doing this loses credibility. on both sides!

  6. Great stuff! The answer is another amnesty to advance “our” nation! How surprising!

    Gonzalez sounds much like most far-left open borders types who spend time rehearsing in their ever-present mirror. “I know best, What I say goes, I care nothing for the laws that do not advance my people so that I can advance my own political future and immigrants who come legally are useless to me…”

    News for this stunningly arrogant but apparently dim character: He should move to California or New York or maybe Utah. In Georgia he will always be the comical wanna-be tough guy who cannot see that he provides his pro-American enemies endless useful quotes every time he opens his mouth or touches his keyboard.

    Best pont: The part where Gonzalez admits that assimilation and adopting English as the common and official language of the USA is an insult to his “culture.” You can’t buy better advertising for immigration enforcement than that one.

    If I were King, I would bet BIG that there is no more helpful or validating enemy and hope he never shuts up. I heard this Gonzalez guy was nuts. But who knew so far out?

  7. Go look at Mr. Gonzalez non-profit tax records and see who his supporters truly are.
    There are a few lies on there as I checked and GA Power does not support him at all.
    He mainly gives himself a nice lifestyle while claiming to build La Razza in GA.
    He cares nothing and does nothing for the abused illegal immigrants. He cares not for america but for Mexico and wants power. He is a imposter.
    Also check out his sources, Southern policy law center, makes money off lies to make the conservatives look like criminals. He profits off taking pictures of high school paint ball young men and makes them out to be killers for his on profit. He is a far left funded group also. Both sources are questionable.
    And so far as the feloney charge against King, what about the horrible latino gang and criminals selling drugs in GEoriga? We are overrun with corrupt latino criminals and its costing us dearly in lives and legal fees.
    Please check out all of Mr. Gonzalezs non-profit tax filings as to how he spends his money. What out though a few donations he claims he received from public companies are lies.

  8. all the comments were interesting and informative. The plan you laid out stephanie seemed very sensible to me. I am offended when anyone says making English the official language of the United States of America is insulting to their culture. Every immigrant group that has come here has learned the language that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written in. The folks who founded the institution which is the U.S spoke English. I am insulted by Mr. Gonzalez. How dare he make such a piggish, thug statement. Invade a country and get mad with the inhabitants because they don’t speak your language- and want you to learn theirs-REALLY! really! If I moved to Mexico, they would expect me to know Spanish pretty soon, same in Italy or Germany or anywhere else on God’s Green Earth.

  9. I couldn’t add much to James’ excellent response, except to second the call for Jerry Gonzales to actually engage if he’s going to feign to do so. Instead, he contemptuously levies false accusations and threats — groundless claims of racism against many, if not most, Georgians; ugly insinuations about group ethnic power that he would (accurately) term prejudiced in anyone else; thuggish language about “respect” and “insults” in response to Stephanie’s invitation to measured discussion.

    I wonder what passes under the banner of civic leadership in his seminars, if this is the way he responds to a civil invitation to . . . show some. Please tell me we’re not subsidizing yet another round of syllabized contempt — on either the delivering or receiving end.

  10. Jerry Gonzalez is not much for measured discussion in the face of determined opposition , is he?
    Much sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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