AUSTIN, Texas >> Here’s something that’s going to divide folks into two camps: those who find this offer generously helpful (if with a bit of snark) and those who find it incredibly hurtful.
It’s posted by Empower Texans, a conservative bunch with a penchant for not pulling punches. It’s under big letters that say “Go To California” and smaller letters that say, “California has declared itself a sanctuary state for people in the country illegally. We’re going to help give them what they want.”
The preamble to the offer notes that “Even as Texas and other states crack down on illegal immigration, California has declared itself — effective this year — a ‘sanctuary state’ in which law enforcement officials are mostly barred from working with federal immigration officers.
“Similarly, California even prevents private employers from letting federal officials enter a business’ private spaces or review employment records without a court order,” the group says.
“They want to be a safe haven for illegals and provide them with tax-funded benefits. Empower Texans is happy to help,” it says on the website. “Therefore, Empower Texans will pay the one-way travel to California for illegal immigrants currently residing in the Lone Star State.”
“Participants mush sign a contract that they will never again reside in the Lone Star State.”
The application is online. Just fill in your name, country of origin, date of birth, “approximate date you entered Texas,” some other info and click your agreement to the fine print that says applicants must be at least 18 and a Texas resident “legally eligible to travel via airline in the United States.”
“Applicants are eligible for a single one-way ticket from Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston or San Antonio to Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego or San Francisco. In order to receive a ticket under this program, all applicants will be required to sign a contract agreeing to never again reside in the State of Texas, subject to liquidated damages for breach of contract. All tickets are non-redeemable and non-transferable,” according to the offer.
I’m guessing this offer is both sincere and symbolic. Either way, it quite effectively makes the group’s attempted point. That’s why some among you will find it helpful and others will find it hurtful. I’m not going to try to impact your decision.
As I’ve noted in the past, I’m kind of an immigration hawk with a decided bent in favor of the incredible value of legal immigration, which is how my family wound up in the U.S., and a nagging apprehension (although with a full understanding) of illegal immigration.
I believe we get to set the rules for immigration into our country. That’s among the reasons we have countries. And that’s why it’s so important that Congress, perhaps as early as this coming week, works to update our immigration laws to reflect current realities.
I remain troubled by one of those realities: We have to change our laws in ways that will benefit some folks who broke the law when they came here or overstayed their legal welcome because so many foreigners have violated our immigration laws. We’ve often encouraged it via lax law enforcement and businesses that hire ignoring the law.
That’s too bad — a sad, inescapable truth, but too bad nonetheless. It leads to the equally inescapable truth that it would be cold, cruel and, dare I say it, downright un-American to do anything other than allow the so-called Dreamers to remain in the only country they’ve known.
Despite President Donald Trump’s call for it, however, I can’t get comfortable with the citizenship portion of that.
It somehow seems wrong to afford that advantage to folks from families that violated our laws while many, many others have waited in line and pursued legal ways to come here or attain citizenship. Is it fair to let Mexicans have a proximity advantage over people from, say, Sweden or India?
Another thing: Remember when Trump got in trouble in some quarters for saying he prefers one kind of immigrant over another? Well please recall that President Barack Obama’s DACA program, the one still backed by many Democrats, did a similar thing for the Dreamers.
In addition to age and arrival qualifications, Obama’s DACA plan, announced in June 2012, only covered applicants who had been honorably discharged from our military or were in school or had a high school diploma or GED.
I can understand denying legal status to criminals. But I don’t really understand the education requirement. If these young people’s situation is sad and if they are illegally in this country through no fault of their own, shouldn’t we have compassion for all of them, regardless of education level?
I trust you’ve noticed there are good and productive people who didn’t graduate from high school.
A final thought: If Dreamers’ situations are compelling enough for us to make special rules to help them — and we most certainly should — shouldn’t we do what we can to prevent future waves of people who wind up in their challenging situation?
Of course we should. That’s why Trump is right to tie any DACA-like program to beefed-up border protection. It’s a linkage that’s proper and necessary.
Does this mean the nonsensical wall proposed by candidate Trump necessary? Of course not. But we must find better ways to enforce our immigration laws, whatever they may be.
Our immigration laws should reflect this dual reality: We let some people in because they can help us. And we let some people in because they need our help. We can and should do both.
But we get to set the rules to reach those very American goals.