Saturday, March 25, 2006

Unconstitutional? Anti-Immigrant? Racist?

Let me take you back to last night. Friday night. The Friday my Spring Break began. Who wants to cook? My husband and I decided to call our local take-out restaurant that features chicken wings and Mexican food. They have great food and best of all a phone call gets it delivered to our door. No muss, no fuss. I kept calling but couldn’t get anyone. I decided I would just go on by the place since I had to take my daughter to a friend’s house. The restaurant, aptly named “Wing-It”, was closed. A big sign was on the door. “To support our fellow Hispanics we will not be open for business on March 24, 2006.” No chimichanga for me, no wings for hubby.

Yesterday, according to a Hispanic group spokesman, 80,000 Hispanics did now show up for work in Georgia. The Hall County school system, located north of Atlanta, reported that 40% of Hispanic students stayed home. The reason for the day long boycott was to protest Georgia Senate Bill 529, also known as the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act.

The bill prohibits illegal aliens from tax-payer funded benefits, companies that maintain public contracts can only hire legals, and tough penalties can be imposed for human trafficking. Children and mothers who are pregnant are exempt from the benefit restrictions. Both houses of Georgia’s General Assembly have approved different versions of the bill. Hispanics are upset because it appears that a final version of the bill will be written by a conference committee before the legislative session is over. One version of the bill contains a 5% surcharge on any money that is wired out of the country. Several state senators have already stated they want that provision removed.

Tisha Tallman of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund attacked the bill calling it unconstitutional, anti-immigrant, and racist.

One Hispanic high school student who attended a rally at the state capital told reporters, “Everybody should have the same rights---we just want justice.”

Another student, whose family is legal and have resided in Georgia for 13 years, said, “I think this bill discriminates against people who work hard.”

The word is still out on the impact the day long boycott. Some areas were probably more affected than others. My husband reported that the Mexican restaurant he had lunch at was slower than normal because some of the cooks didn’t show up. While my take out place was closed last night two of the busiest Mexican restaurants in town did a booming business. On my way to work I usually pass several cars full of Hispanics heading to construction sites. Yesterday was no different. I passed several vans and trucks. We had to opt for steak last night and while I was in the grocery store I passed several Hispanics purchasing groceries. I dared myself to ask them about the boycott, but I didn’t. My school reported no rise in absenteeism due to the boycott.

As an educator I am one of the people in the state who deals directly with Hispanic immigrants. Since they are children I have no knowledge if they are in the country legally or illegally. However, the state estimates we currently have somewhere between 250 to 800,000 illegals. While our burden is not as great as some states, Georgia is seeing a tremendous strain in certain segments of our government namely education, prisons, and healthcare. Yes, illegals do pay some taxes in the form of sales tax, but I’m fairly certain that the amount of sales tax they pay does not equal or exceed the amount of services received.

Georgians are debating the issue at the AJC website here. (scroll down to reach the comments).

Is it fair for illegal aliens to benefit from these services without reciprocating by paying taxes in the same manner as other Georgians? I don’t see how the bill is unconstitutional. Someone clue me in. The students at the rally seem to think illegal aliens deserve the same rights as citizens because they work hard and everyone should have the same opportunities. They are somewhat correct. Everyone should have the same opportunities if they are following the rules. I’m tired of hearing the argument that we should just allow illegals to remain as they are since they are doing the work Americans don’t want to do. Are these jobs Americans won’t do or is it because Americans won’t accept the wages paid for those jobs?

What really gets my fur up is the states that are most affected are having to take the initiative to do something about the problem. GW and the United States Congress are woefully behind the curve in handling this issue. Certain aspects of the problem need to be handled at a federal level. Our borders need to be strengthened. Paperwork allowing immigrants into our country should be streamlined, and let’s mend some fences by allowing everyone who is currently here illegally to register without penalty.

President Bush urged the nation on Friday to remain civil in our discourse on the matter. Apparently he will be attending a citizenship ceremony on Monday while the Senate Judiciary Committee will be considering the issue.

As a history teacher I know that the current debate on immigration is not the first one our nation has experienced. I did a little research and have a second post in the works as a follow up to add a little enlightenment to the issue. While doing the research I located the next topic I plan to post on at the American Presidents site. Funny how these things seem to dovetail and fit together…that’s what I love about history.

Well….Wing-It is open tonight and my chimi is on the way. Let’s eat!

6 comments:

Anonymous said...
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elementaryhistoryteacher said...
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Al said...

Word verification took care of most of it for me.

Just an additional note on the tax issues:

Keep in mind that any undocumented immigrant not working under the table has federal (and in most cases state) income taxes and FICA witheld from his/her check, just like the rest of us. It's not just sales tax. The question in my mind (as I prepare to install TurboTax) is how many of them file to claim the refunds that most would probably qualify for?

I think you identify a significant part of the issue when you say that there are somewhere between 250K and 800K in Georgia: we don't really even know how many we're talking about.

Mike in Texas said...

It took care of the problem for me.

I always stop kids who try to tell me about their immigration status, the less I know the better.

Except for the one kid who told me in great detail about the cock fights his father takes him to. For some reason I couldn't stop listening.

Jennie W said...

I thought I'd give you a real comment to make up for the "sale" comments.

I have to agree that while I don't mind new immigrants, I think they should come through the normal system. I don't think its fair that illegal immigrants get services without having to go through the same processes as the rest of us.