There is very little that's new in the debate over immigration. The times, people and places change, but the ideas and positions do not. One side wants to limit immigration and punish those who don't abide by immigration law, while the other wants to embrace immigrants and provide them with as much help as possible. In a nutshell, one side wants to keep them out of society, while the other wants to draw them further in.
The latest, closest go-around has New Haven mayor and gubernatorial candidate John DeStefano proposing municipal ID cards for illegal immigrants, so that they might gain better access to city services.
"Let’s be real about why this is happening first of all," said the mayor, who is also a gubernatorial candidate, during a bilingual press conference in City Hall. "The failure of the federal government to recognize and embrace thousands and thousands of hard-working residents, is subjecting those people and their families to abuse and exploitation," he said.
"All of these people are hard-working, decent members of our society on which we depend everyday," DeStefano said. "We can do better by them and we have to make up some of it as we go along." (Bromage)
This has predictably raised the ire of a Connecticut anti-immigration group.
"Does anybody in New Haven understand that they are breaking the immigration law?" said Elise Marciano, Danbury chapter president of the Connecticut Citizens for Immigration Control.
"You are not supposed to aid and abet illegal aliens." (Bromage)
Both positions are correct. Illegal immigrants are here, well, illegally. Should we not abide by the law? But DeStefano is also correct in recognizing that illegal immigrants are in fact dwelling in his city in great numbers, and that the law isn't likely to make them vanish any time soon. Instead of attempting to remove the illegal immigrants from New Haven, the city will try to draw them into more legitimate society.
Both sides ignore a vital part of the problem. No ID card will make illegal immigrants legal ones, and no amount of pontificating about the law and illegal immigrants will make them leave. So is this the right thing to do? It's almost impossible to say.
The only things that are clear about this plan is the controversy it's going to cause, and that, at most, it's only part of a larger solution to the problem of illegal immigrants.
Bromage, Andy. "City to offer ID for illegal aliens." New Haven Register 4 October, 2005.