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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Alabama Voices: Immigrant Law Ignores Humanity

Montgomery Advertiser (Opinion): Regardless of the side upon which we fall in the issue of illegal immigration in Alabama, we as a state -- and nation -- have failed miserably to address the issue of the problem far too long. That issue is the influx of illegal immigrants into the United States as an event that spans many years. If this discussion were about drugs, weapons, and the cartels, my opinion would be to treat such events as if we were in a hostile conflict for our very national survival.

However, while the issue of illegals has included hotly debated topics related to what is legal throughout our national systems, whether those systems are our schools, medical facilities, border crossings, or entitlements, we have missed a very important issue that rises above the emotions and our disdain for what is illegal. This topic is the humanity of the immigrants.

I am not saying that this issue is without merit in terms of what is right and wrong. What I am saying is that we as a nation have had years to develop a method to create a system that is effective, whether that process includes more border patrols, regulations, or a better process to allow the legal influx of people seeking to provide for themselves and their families. For the sake of argument, I want to address the humanity of what is happening in our state.

Instead of creating a situation in which an exodus of people fled to remain able to provide resources for themselves and their families, why could we not as a state have decided to be proactive and create an innovative statewide immigration system that might have been emulated by the rest of the nation? For example, why could we not have established a system in which the resident illegal immigrants were to register, pay a reasonable fine, and be placed into a citizenship track to become legal immigrants, alongside the required mandate to obtain citizenship?

These illegals were already working in many areas of the state. If the process to move them from illegal status to a type of "in-citizen training" status, allowing or requiring them to become bilingual with English as the required language and pay taxes, how would this have harmed the state? Alabama would have created a system whereby it would have provided a naturalization process to keep its workforce viable, whether that workforce picks crops in the fields of our state or as laborers in many other areas of employment. And pay taxes!

One of the arguments has been that illegals take the jobs of legal citizens? Really? Then why are so many of our farmers talking about the lack of workers to pick the crops? Pray tell, where are the laborers to do these jobs since the illegals are leaving the state en masse? I may not have all the facts, but many other Alabama citizens are in the same position of understanding. Regardless, there is the human side of this issue.

What about the people who have been here for some time, worked hard, cared for family, remained faithful to the laws of the land (other than their illegal status, of course), and have begun to raise children in this state? Were these individuals so terrible that we had to suddenly throw them out of the state as if they were not human? Why didn't we try to solve the problem before we decided to treat them as something less than human beings? We have known they were here for years, yet we did nothing positively proactive to address the long-standing issue.

The counter argument I can hear rising up from some is simply that they broke the law and they are to be punished. You mean, like the people who are legal residents and break the law, yet they never pay any price for those laws broken? These immigrants may be here illegally, but unless they have criminal backgrounds or commit crimes while in the state, what other violations have they committed?

Before we condemn them, I would have hoped that Alabama would have taken this opportunity to lead from a humanitarian perspective.

Until the federal government undertakes a serious immigration reform, illegal immigration will continue to be a problem. It will take creative leadership and courage to initiate a process to help those in our state illegally move towards becoming productive citizens, not just formerly productive illegal immigrants who lived in Alabama.

We as a nation condemn other nations when they experience conflicts in which one group of people try to rid themselves of others not like them for whatever reasons. I don't advocate reckless abandonment of immigration policies or laws; however, Washington's only solution is to sue a state it thinks has overstepped its authority. If Washington would create a responsive and responsible immigration reform process, maybe Alabama would not have to resort to such a law as to make it intolerable for these immigrants (yes, illegal immigrants) to flee the state.

These are human beings who are trying to make a better future for themselves and their families. Until our leaders in Washington design a viable and lasting solution to our border security and a regulated legal immigration system, creating anti-illegal laws in Alabama will only cause the illegals to move from place-to-place.

We in Alabama might have a different view if we were the people being displaced. There are solutions to this problem that should have been sought before we used our laws to pit humanity against humanity. There is a major difference in being here illegally to survive as compared to those who are here illegally to commit crimes. Surely Alabama is smart enough to know the difference and weed out the criminals.

Alabama is worthy of a humanitarian effort to have helped these people become productive taxpaying citizens and neighbors.

Ken Scott of Montgomery has been a resident of Alabama for 26 years.

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