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June 29th, 2009
07:00 AM ET

Dear President Obama #161: One more time with feeling – The Immigrant Song

Reporter's Note: President Obama has been seeking advice from normal citizens since even before his inauguration. Not sure if he’s taking any of it; at least not any of mine. But still I continue writing a letter a day.

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

So I understand you are eager to jump into the immigration debate again with both feet!

Good for you. It’s an issue that is far from settled, and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t tackle it as soon as possible…I mean, anything other than the economy, health care reform, and the situations in (take your pick) North Korea/Iran/Iraq/or Afghanistan. Ha! Just kidding.

You’ve shown both a great appetite and talent for major-league multi-tasking, so give the immigration wheel a whirl and let’s see what happens. But before you do, I think one thing needs to be clarified: Do we want an immigration policy based primarily on the needs of our country, the needs of people who want to come here, or some balance of both?

I’m not trying to be a smart guy or give you a hard time. It’s a serious question for a lot of voters, when it comes to understanding the discussions and proposals that lie ahead.

If I understand it correctly, through most of our country’s history, our immigration policy was that we opened our gates largely based on what we needed in terms of labor and skills. Yes, I know that was not the only way we decided who could come; and there were certainly overtones of racism, religious bigotry, and other factors; but in general that was the guiding principle, despite what many of us might imagine about that friendly lady with the torch in New York’s harbor.

And the leaders of our growing nation saw it as a pretty fair deal: We’d give opportunities to people who could give us something in return. Certainly, when we talk about Latino immigrants, plenty of people have made the case that it’s still true. They want jobs. We want inexpensive labor. Marriage made in heaven.

But of course, it’s not that simple. Illegal immigration has enraged plenty of people. Job losses here to foreign firms have hardened opinions. And with unemployment still rising, it’s not going to get any easier.

So that’s why I say a clear definition would really help as you reopen this debate; of what we are after, or at least what we are considering. The issue has grown so cloudy, with so many accusations and suspicions, I fear even the most well-intentioned, thoughtful, and responsible Americans may just find themselves shaking their heads, saying, “Here we go again,” with no idea where we are going at all.

Just a few thoughts. Give me a call if you want to chat it over. I changed my ringtone, so whenever someone calls it sounds like calypso band is playing! Ha!

Regards,

Tom

Find more of the Foreman Letters, here.

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Reality

    For each illegal, or illegal who is allowed to circumvent the system to obtain a path to citizenship, one legal, educated individual from another country is kept out. Everyone seems to talk about how the decisions impact Hispanics, but Hispanics ARE NOT the only group wishing to obtain entry into the US.
    Close any business caught hiring illegals. Require hospitals to report each illegal who shows up for treatment and deport them. Same with schools who identify children of illegals. When they realize they will be identified and deported for trying to obtain free services, they'll stop. If treatment is required, then let it come with a cost to them. Healthcare is not a right. It's a business. I get sick of paying over 30% in income taxes only to see it go to people who are sucking the system dry.
    Contrary to claims that illegals pay taxes...they will use fake SSNs, claim 15 dependents to eliminate withholdings and then fail to file tax returns. They take money and send it back to their families in their country of origin which is less money spent to support our economy. Companies hire them because it's cheap and they avoid paying benefits. It has nothing to do with people not wanting the jobs. I guarantee you if working on farms paid fair wages, people would take the jobs. There are construction jobs, but why pay union wages, or fair wages, plus benefits, when no one is enforcing the laws, allowing these companies to use illegals?
    We have to create an environment where it's not worth being here illegally, and it's not worth the risk of hiring illegals. When the money and gravy train stops rolling, people won't be so eager to come here.

    June 30, 2009 at 8:44 am |
  2. RLWellman

    We still live in a Capitalist Country, even though it is becoming more and more Socialist everyday. Hopefully, it won't become a dictatorship. But, who knows, the way it is heading it may end up there.

    The illegal aliens should be kicked out like they were during the "Great Depression." This way we could save billions of dollars in health care, schooling, and Medicaid that we are giving them free. If they wanted to come back in, they could do so the "legal way."

    We need to take care of our own American Citizens first!

    June 29, 2009 at 2:08 pm |
  3. Teresa, OH

    @babs: applause applause.

    If I may: "You wan to live here, respect and obey the laws and our constitution. If you don’t ….GO HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!" If they are illegals, they are already breaking the law and so are their employers.

    Babs: CNN should give you fifteen minutes air time.

    @Mike: as always, you you give us reality at its best.

    June 29, 2009 at 2:08 pm |
  4. Krasi

    Poeple should not forget that the immigration problem is two-sided. Yes, immigrants come illigally to find jobs, but they do not employ themselves – many employers are happy to have them and pay them next to nothing for labour many of us wouldn't like to do.

    I have been living in Houston for the past three years which has allowed me to examine the immigration issue first-hand. And honestly, when you hear those people's stories of how they came, especially the women's, there is absolutely NO WAY I (or I'm sure any of you) will go through something like this unless we were really desperate.

    June 29, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  5. Jim,

    An Old Indian Chief was asked What he thought of America & her progress- His Responce- " Before white man our Ancestors had no taxes, Men Hunted & fished, Women worked & raised Children.
    White man Dumb enough to think He could improve system."

    June 29, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  6. Bronte Hughes

    I think the issue of finding a balance between what is good for the country and what is good for those entering it is a key point and I'm very curious to know what Mr. President thinks of this ideal and how his views and actions relate to that.

    June 29, 2009 at 11:15 am |
  7. Babs

    Lastly, our government shouldn't "DICTATE" what we should do with our choices for health. Our constitution isn't a dictatorship.

    June 29, 2009 at 10:47 am |
  8. Babs

    Our government MUST look at the pros and cons of Universal HealthCare. It is not working in countries, for example, Italy and Canada. The population there is less than U.S.. How does this country propose to institutionalize the program here with a dense population? Why must more taxes from WORKING CLASS be used? Realistically, that means taxpayers will be paying for their healthcare with their own taxes, while the NON-tax payers will be getting it for free. When will the U.S. government cease from evolving into a socio-communist regime.
    WAKE UP AMERICA!! Soon we will be giving the government 50 percent of our taxes, while the rich, like Donald Trump don't pay any taxes. POV...Americans are those who actually participate in supporting our government.

    June 29, 2009 at 10:46 am |
  9. Babs

    Another POV...the government needs to look at crime statistics regarding legal/illegal immigration. Particularly from the Latin American countries, south of the border. I am not a bigoted human being. Just an American citizen who wants to see everyone paying their dues. You wan to live here, respect and obey the laws and our constitution. If you don't ....GO HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 29, 2009 at 9:56 am |
  10. Babs

    Immigration is an important issue for me regarding the work ethic and paying taxes. I believe that every American, legal or illegal should pay taxes. I believe that welfare recipients should pay a small percentage of taxes on their acquired income, BECAUSE, as I've experienced, many are cheating and choking the welfare system. Their significant others or spouses are working and when they come to America they say they have no support. SO, if they have to pay taxes, maybe this will change the system.
    Some will say, "You don't know what it's like to be hungry".....my rebuttle is "Why have half a dozen children if you're too hungry and can't support yourself"....end of debate.
    I have been working since 16 years of age and PAYING TAXES. Now the president wants this Universal HealthCare system to apply to everyone. HECK, I do not want to pay MORE taxes for some lazy-ass anyone to have EQUAL rights for healthcare!!!! II think it's good for retirees who have contributed taxes all their lives, those who cannot afford reasonable healthcare on an individual basis. I do not want to pay MORE taxes for people who just stay home and have more children because they want to beat the system. I even know of a doctor or 2 who, when entering this country, claimed not married, and their wives and children lived off the welfare train. Their children went to college for FREE. Some became doctors and others attained their goals. Whereas, many native/natural born Americans can't do anything but struggle to pay their bills. Constitutionally, this is not fair. Equality in this country is an illusion.

    June 29, 2009 at 9:52 am |
  11. Natalia

    I also, strongly agree that the immigration issue once again should be discussed and finally come to favorable solution.

    June 29, 2009 at 9:48 am |
  12. Mike in NYC

    I'm surprised Tom didn't mention the "12 million" - a figure that never seems to change, even though over half a million illegals continue to enter the US each year. The actual total is closer to 30 million. Yes, 30 million.

    June 29, 2009 at 9:16 am |