Americans have been consumed in recent months by a furious national debate over what to do with the 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. and the millions more who sneak in annually.
This issue poses the toughest moral dilemma since the abortion question, with strong arguments and intense passions on either side.
In 1990, the French far-right leader Jean-Marie LePen said to me, "immigration equals invasion. America took California away from Mexico. Now the Mexicans are taking it back!" How right he was. Today, Anglos have become a minority in California, Hispanics the majority.
While U.S. officials give law-abiding Canadians the third degree at border crossings and fulminate about al-Qaida lurking in Montreal, 3—4 million predominantly Mexican illegal immigrants infiltrate each year across the porous U.S. southern border, making a joke of so-called homeland security.
Washington condones this because politicians fear angering increasingly important and demonstrative Hispanic voters. President George Bush has proposed an amnesty for illegals in hope grateful Hispanics will vote Republican.
Though one sympathizes with illegal immigrants fleeing economic hardship, rewarding their lawbreaking by granting them citizenship is unacceptable and unfair to law-abiding immigrants.
Illegal aliens and their families should be deported in an orderly, humane manner. A tightly monitored "guest worker" program must be implemented that excludes families until permanent residence status is given.
Unless these harsh steps are taken, the border sealed, and the immigrant flood halted, the U.S. will rapidly become Hispanicized and made bilingual. Maybe this is good. Maybe not. Americans should be asked to vote on this crucial issue.
Personally, I think all North Americans should be taught English, Spanish and French. I stay in a part of Florida where English is already a third language — after Spanish and Haitian Creole — because I much enjoy Latino culture and ambiance.
If Bush’s plans ever do make it through a divided Congress, it will forever alter American society and culture.
I am not anti-immigration. In the 1960s, I ran a line of West Indies freighters out of Miami. After decades of decline, this city was dying, a ghost town of shuttered businesses, boarded up stores and crime-ridden streets.
Then waves of Cuban refugees landed, and in only a few years turned Miami into one of the hemisphere’s most vibrant, colourful, booming cities. Cocaine played a role, of course, but it was the energy and determination of Cuban immigrants that restored Miami and south Florida to life.
Immigration is highly beneficial, provided it is legal and controlled. My family on both sides were of immigrant origin, and I honour the U.S. each day for opening its arms to them and the persecuted peoples of Eastern Europe.
Only in America
My immigrant grandfather came from eastern Europe and lived on New York’s Lower East side. His son became an industrialist living on Park Avenue. My mother was sponsored into the U.S. by Presbyterian missionaries, went to Wellesley College, and became a citizen and best-selling author. Only in America.
The U.S. is great because it attracts the best, brightest, most energetic from around the world. But when one group becomes too large and dominant, major, long-term social and political unrest is certain. That’s what is happening now. It is invasion, not immigration.
Mexican President Vicente Fox is asking Canada to open its doors to his nation’s human overload. Canadians need to respond with their heads, not their hearts.