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PERSPECTIVES ON IMMIGRATION : Cut Legal Admissions by Two-Thirds : Immigration: A senator offers a 'stabilization' bill.

August 10, 1994|Harry Reid | Harry Reid is a Democratic U.S. senator from Nevada

The federal government has been grossly irresponsible in its neglect of mounting immigration problems, even as these problems place unbearable burdens on states like California. It is regrettable that states have reached a point where the only avenue they have for justice is the courts. It is even more regrettable that this Administration and this Congress stand by and allow the federal courts to decide the nation's immigration policies.

Taxpayers simply cannot continue to sustain new populations the size of San Diego or the state of Nevada every year. California is sending up the red flag tat Washington should heed.Unprecedented demands are being placed on job markets, schools, hospitals, police, social safety nets, infrastructure and natural resources. Unlimited new arrivals pressuring these systems threaten to overwhelm them.

In the West, we have a real appreciation for dwindling natural resources. We fight for water from the Colorado River, the Truckee River and other scarce sources. We endlessly debate policies governing public lands, mining and livestock grazing. But rarely do we consider the burdens that millions of new people place every year on our water supplies air quality, parks, lakes, recreation areas and public land.

Our doors should remain open, but only wide enough to admit those to whom we can realistically offer opportunity and security. To leave the door unguarded is to create an environment in which no one can live securely and peacefully. And so I am sponsoring a bill in the Senate to reduce immigration-legal and illegal.

Most politicians agree that illegal immigration should end. My legislation would double border patrols and accelerate the deportation process for criminals and illegal entrants. But many lawmakers feel that lowering legal immigration is too dicey. This is a cop-out.

My legislation calls for a reduction of legal immigrants from the current level of about 1 million admissions a year to approximately 325,000. Even that more realistic level means 25,000 newcomers entering every month, looking for jobs, housing and education.

When I sat down with Rev. Jesse Jackson not long ago to discuss immigration, he advised me to look at the moral implications of what I proposed. I did, and found the moral imperative on Congress and the President to enact change, quickly. Americans have sat freely around a bountiful dinner table. Now, the table is becoming overcrowded. People are squeezing in and elbowing each other to get what they want. Unless changes are made, our dinner table eventually will collapse, and no one will have security and opportunity.

Opponents of immigration reform cry racism or point toward our historic role as a nation of immigrants. Charges of racial bias are unfounded. Unlike anything proposed before, my Immigration Stabilization Act explicity prohibits discrimination in refugee admissions.

The real injustice to future Americans would be to do nothing. America is proud of its immigrant tradition. This tradition should be reconciled with our responsibility to create a better country in which to live. If we do not take responsible steps today, we will be forced to take radical and sadly preventable action only a decade from now.

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