Wow, this country loves nothing better than to blow a story all out of proportion for dramatic effect. I’m pretty sure if Congress could find a way to polarize the nation over Tom-Cat’s baby, we’d have pending legislation on excessive couch jumping.

Speaking of cats, you can’t swing one without seeing a story about the illegal immigrant problem. And let’s be clear, when we say “immigrant”, we mean Mexican. No one is planning to build a fence north of Montana, and no one’s too worried about an influx of Ukrainian exchange students that choose to hang out in the States after their visas expire.

Everyone is acting like illegal Mexican immigrants are something new. Like 11 million people showed up last week. Get a grip. We’ve been turning a largely blind eye to Mexicans crossing the border since World War II. Sure, it’s a new world since 9/11, but there are no known ties between Mexico and Al-Qaeda (of course that argument didn’t help Iraq much). Still, no one’s planning to invade Mexico (I hope). And few seem to be arguing against the notion that the majority of Mexicans entering the country illegally are employed in ways that actually support parts of the US economy. There’s no evidence they are taking jobs from Americans. And there’s no evidence that these people are a disruptive force in our country. In fact, the very peaceful protests in L.A. last weekend are a testament to the disposition of the majority of illegal Mexican immigrants. That protest might have easily “turned French” and resulted in rioting and mayhem. It didn’t.

The only downside to the Mexican “problem” is the drain on public resources. So rather than try to solve a bunch of problems that don’t exist, let’s fix the one that does, and be done with it.

Let’s admit that the existing border arrangement with Mexico suits both countries pretty well as is. Let’s also admit that the illegal Mexican labor would be significantly less useful if it became legal labor. Once we “legalize” the immigrants, they become protected by all the U.S. labor laws. And ducking those labor laws is arguably why employers are hiring illegal labor to start with.

Mexican immigration policy is a little like highway speed limits. No one, including the police, expect everyone to obey the posted limit. Yet there is a small but tangible chance that occasionally you’ll be caught and made an example. And if you’re stupid or reckless, the laws can be used to punish you or even take away your right to drive. We all know the risk, and the vast majority of us take that risk all the time. The Mexicans know the risk too, and it’s worth it to them to take it. And frankly, it seems to be worth it for us as well.

So how do we fix the drain on public resources? This almost seems too simple, but… stop providing them. Why is it unreasonable that legal U.S. residency be a requirement to receive any publicly provided or funded service? What part of “illegal” confuses people? We can’t get too hung up on how inhumane it would be to deny medical care, education, or public assistance to illegal immigrants. Those benefits are rights that U.S. taxpayers choose to afford for the U.S., not the world at large. Now I’m not suggesting that emergency medical care be denied a bleeding man in the E.R. because he can’t produce a green card. But I am suggesting that we need an agreement with Mexico to take these people back at the border. In this way, once the man is stitched up, if he can’t pay (or his employer won’t pay) for his care, he gets a ride to the border. In essence, “showing up on the radar” gets you a ticket.

Does this drive the immigrants into an underground of sorts? Sure, in a way I suppose. I suspect illegals wouldn’t be willing to seek out medical care for non life threatening situations, unless of course, they could pay for it. But is that a bad thing? Remember that we are not hunting these people. There are no wanted posters in the neighborhoods, and police will not pick them up on site. It’s the immigrant equivalent of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

I’m okay with immigrants trying to come here and earn their citizenship, and I recognize that for a variety of reasons, not all will follow the official rules for that. But I also think it’s reasonable that if you choose to take a shortcut, you also incur the additional risk for missteps along the way. Is that too harsh? I don’t think so. It recognizes the value of these people, but still supports the rule of law. Illegal means illegal. It also encourages employers to supply services (e.g. medical, educational, etc.) to these people because they will not be eligible for public services. And additionally, charities are able (and likely willing) to help these people out. This is all goodness.

The only thing this doesn’t do is recognize the rights of these people as U.S. citizens. But I did mention they were illegal aliens, right?

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