Stu Bykofsky: No matter his defense, illegal immigrant's still a lawbreaker

Posted: March 01, 2010

ONE GREAT mandate of column-writing is supporting the little guy, but what if the little guy is in the wrong?

The reaction to last month's column on immigration was overwhelmingly against illegal immigrants, who portray themselves as the little guy. And they are.

The only e-mail I got in their behalf was from one of them, Harold, whose name I'm withholding because he fears being deported - even though only a tiny number of them are sent home.

I will condense the points Harold made in several e-mails, as fairly as possible:

He arrived 18 years ago with a one-year visa at age 15, liked it here, overstayed his visa and then had "no way" to become legal. (He could have returned home to apply, lawfully, as millions of others do.) He tried to get citizenship through marriage, but the marriage broke up and now he's a single father with a home he owns, a car, a driver's license, insurance and two kids in Catholic school. He sounds like a good American, but is he a good citizen?

He sees proposed House Bill 4321 as providing amnesty to "those who follow the law, up to date in taxes (if able to pay) and have been in the country for more than five years. What's wrong with that?" (Harold didn't "follow the law" to get here and non-enforcement of the law will be a magnet for more lawbreakers.)

Harold says that it takes a long time and money to get permission to get in now. (True. Others still do it. Harold opted not to.)

He says that the laws were different when my grandparents came across. (Yes, but they obeyed laws of the time. Laws then permitted child labor and segregation. Now they don't. We have to obey current law.)

"I did come here legal, but overstayed," says Harold. "I didn't jump the border or did anything illegal to get in!" (Harold acted just as illegally as a border-jumper.)

"We're not hurting, killing, or attacking anyone!" (A common alibi, it ignores that he is here illegally. It is a selfish attitude: I want what I want for me from America, and I don't care about its rules.)

"I understand some people don't like change or immigrants, but some of us, I think deserve a chance."

People like me, Harold, don't dislike immigrants. We like immigrants who respect our laws.

My "solution" is a statute of limitations that would give the undocumented who have been here more than five years, such as Harold, permanent residency provided they make financial restitution - but they don't get citizenship. That's their "punishment" and removes the incentive for craven politicians to cater to them.

You've heard from Harold and me. Now, from readers:

* I just do not get it. Why are we the bad guys - those of us who want and demand attention and adherence to the law?

There is a lack of courage in our Congress . . . interest groups have them by the tail and throat. BIG money has rendered our Congress USELESS for doing the American people's business. . . . "We the people" have been disenfranchised.

Allen A. Schiavoni,

Mohnton, Pa.

* I worked for a landscape company that employed many illegal immigrants, many of whom used someone else's license to be able to drive the trucks. They "buy" a Social Security card to get a job.

My employer justified it like this: "They pay income tax and don't file a tax return, so they're contributing to the economy." I say phooey. There is no justification for doing something illegal. What she neglects to realize is that they are also consuming much of our welfare dollars, too. It's just not right.

- Tammi Price,

Lindenwold, N.J.

* I'm not against legal immigration as the U.S. is made up of immigrants who were the very foundation of the nation. The government is just as much at fault as Congress routinely strips verification of citizenship amendments from legislation, making it easier for illegals to stay here. . . . Until government on ALL levels toughens up immigration laws the problem won't just go away.

- Thomas G. Lutek,

Philadelphia

* Let them file back tax returns, pay the onerous IRS penalties and interest that legal Americans face, and contribute to future Social Security, all the while waiving rights to Social Security disability for children, Medicaid and CHIP.

Now we have something to consider.

- Steven Mashura,

West Chester, Pa.

* I am constantly amazed by the audacity, arrogance and sense of entitlement of illegals. They demonstrate and demand we change our laws for them, and they do so in Spanish!

America only needs to look to the UK and see how illegal immigrants are ruining that country. We are next if the laws will not be enforced.

- Susan Cooke,

Warwick, Pa.

E-mail stubyko@phillynews.com or call 215-854-5977. For recent columns:

http://go.philly.com/byko.

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