Our Opinion: Border issues

Monday, April 10, 2006

Estimates of how many illegal aliens are in the U.S. range from 7 million to 12 million, a 5-million-person gap that illustrates how porous our borders are and how large a problem the federal government faces in dealing with immigration issues.

For the most part, Americans concerned about the wave of undocumented immigrants are focused on those from Mexico and Central America, even though there are many others who have found ways to enter and stay in this country without proper authorization.

Demonstrations last week underscored the fact that Spanish-speaking immigrants are flooding into the U.S., and they aren't stopping just in border states in the Southwest. The Midwest and northern states are having to find ways to cope with the tide of undocumented immigrants as well.

The claim that workers who are in this country illegally are doing work Americans won't do may only be partially correct. More and more attention is being drawn to the fact that many American citizens are complaining about the competition for low-paying jobs -- jobs they say they would gladly do if they had the opportunity.

President Bush, who conferred with Mexico's President Fox last week in Cancun, favors a plan to recognize millions of the illegal immigrants with a program that would decriminalize them and give them temporary authorization to stay and work in this country.

With the national unemployment rate at a fairly stable low, it would appear that the illegal workers in the U.S. aren't keeping all that many would-be worker from finding jobs. But the broader interests of the U.S. could well lie in developing something nearer economic parity with the countries whose residents cross our borders illegally.

As long as the lowest-paying jobs in the U.S. are worth all the consequences of being in this country illegally, Mexicans and Central Americans will continue to find their way in.

Demonstrators who desire official recognition for illegal aliens and take to American streets waving the Mexican flag, however, are using the wrong symbol. Anyone who aspires to the American dream should be waving the U.S. flag -- proudly and with respect.