A recent immigration law, sponsored by Senator Shirley Turner and signed by Gov. Jon S. Corzine, is being twisted and distorted to suggest that at its foundation lay a jingoistic anti-Hispanic agenda. The intent and purpose of the law is clear. The law intends to protect tax-paying and law-abiding citizens who legally obtain a license, registration and insurance as is required by New Jersey law. Moreover, the law forces the hand of those who wish to and succeed in skirting the rule of law. In an ideal world a bilateral partnership between Pennsylvania and New Jersey’s executive and legislative branches would have been best in addressing the matter. I will not pretend to know whether such an attempt was made, but know that we can not allow other states’ loopholes to fracture our already delicate system.
The fact that this law brings issues of illegal immigration to the surface is important and should not be marginalized. The federal government has shown that it is unwilling to put politics aside to have a meaningful dialogue about illegal immigration. It is clear that we will not get any bills on the matter with this Congress, and most certainly not within the first 100 days of the 44th presidency. The question I have is: what are municipalities and states to do in the meantime?
As we struggle to make ends meet and to bring structural deficits under control, we must look at all the loopholes that amount to wasteful spending. We cannot continue to cut the most vital programs and further retard the growth of the state and industries it subsidizes. Most importantly, the same resolve and courage that executives and legislatures employ when cutting education and then defending those cuts is the same resolve and courage that needs to be used to stand up to special interest groups. Specifically, legislatures need to stand up to those special interest groups that threaten to withhold from campaign coffers if the state takes a tough stance on illegal immigration; especially those who engage in “label wars” with such words as “bigot,” “racist” and “xenophobic.”
There must be one set of laws for everyone. For the sake of collective progress, individuals cannot pick and choose which laws they will follow. Also, municipalities and the state must enforce existing laws. How can law be viewed as legitimate if it is lauded and then left to collect dust while we turn our attention to the next big thing? This state spends too much on law enforcement officials only to have a book of law that is casually enforced.
Illegal immigrants must realize that being American, or considered Jersey Folk, is more than just selling your labor. There is more to this country than slave labor and wages. The argument often brought before legislative bodies is one that reminds us of the vast amount of service these men and women provide to the economy. Does this same argument take into account the hundreds of billions that are extracted from our economy and sent back to their homelands? Being a member of this community is about your labor, but it is also about that reward you receive from that labor and its “reinvestment” back into this economy.
Finally, the argument that our forefathers and mothers immigrated here more easily is not analogous. The America of yesteryear is no longer. We face a whole set of challenges unthinkable to our ancestors. One of those is suicide terrorism. We must do all we can to make sure we can account for every man, woman and child in this country. That does not imply we need some Orwellian system lurking over our shoulders. But, we must know that you exist. That is the first thing. America can not afford to have an underground, not with the prospect of loose nuclear weapons existing as a possibility.
We must have a constructive dialogue on illegal immigration based on real issues that affect real people.
Due to the consistent use of smoke and mirrors we have become infatuated with “sights and sounds” which are mistaken for reality. We must free ourselves from this hypnotic daydream that seeks to keep us in perpetual servitude. The vast majority of power in this country remains with the people, via our surrogate the state. We must exercise our indelible rights as “states” in this union, and act. New Jersey must take the higher ground and lead the way via enforcement of existing laws or the creation of new laws to address all aspects of illegal immigration.
The plaque at the base of Lady Liberty should read, “No Vacancy until Further Notice.”