By Jon Parton
Kansas lawmakers recently declined to pass Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s proposed immigration bills. The proposed measures called for tougher illegal immigration laws similar to the one passed last year in Arizona.
The Department of Homeland Security estimated 10.8 million unauthorized immigrants to be living in the United States as of 2010. Although the issue of illegal immigration is politically charged, many people on campus look to the human side of the issue.
Carolyn Kadel, director, International Education, believes that politicization of illegal immigration has not helped Americans understand the issue.
“It’s a complicated issue that, really, I think demands a rational conversation which it doesn’t seem to be getting at the moment,” Kadel said.
One of the proposed laws would require law enforcement officials to verify citizenship of detained individuals if there were reasonable cause to suspect them of being in the country illegally. Although Kadel sees no problem in checking a person’s identification, she anticipates other difficulties.
“You have a lot of citizens who may be perceived as immigrants,” Kadel said. “We have a lot of very recent legal immigrants. We have a lot of native born people whose first language is Spanish or Chinese. It’s unfortunate if they end up getting negative treatment as a result of a perceived problem.”
Jerry Magliano, professor, Personal Computer Applications, believes the issue must be addressed from a humanitarian point of view.
“Any laws that are put on the books need to deal as humanely as possible with the people who are already here, because we were basically culpable in allowing them to come here,” Magliano said.
Magliano said the United States needs to focus its attention on corruption within the Mexican government. He believes that Mexico’s current leadership does not address the needs of its poorest citizens. Although Magliano sympathizes with their situation, he said it is important to maintain a legal procedure of immigration.
“If you came here illegally, I don’t think you have some sort of entitlement to become a citizen,” Magliano said. “I think you should be given the opportunity to come out of the shadows, identify yourself, be put in some sort of legal status short of citizenship.”
Patrick Dobson, adjunct professor, History, said he believes that unauthorized immigrants play a central role in the American economy. He points out that they are subject to taxes anytime they make a purchase, buy gas or pay highway tolls.
“They’re still creating economic worth,” Dobson said. “They’re also paying taxes over and over and over again. The IRS gives tax numbers to undocumented immigrants. Not everyone, obviously, but many people get a number, and that number is where they file their taxes.”
Dobson believes that a lot of these laws give rise to people who are not only against illegal immigration, but legal immigration as well. He said a number of English-only language laws target both legal and illegal immigrants.
“The thing I have about anti-immigration, being a historian, is that the rhetoric hasn’t changed in 200 years,” Dobson said. “It’s the same stuff, and I wish someone would come up with a new argument.”
Contact Jon Parton, news editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.