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A Politically Polite Way to Handle Immigrants

July 18, 2001|ROY RIVENBURG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The White House is having trouble making up its mind about immigration. Last week at Ellis Island, President Bush called for treating immigrants with "openness and courtesy." This week, he admitted he was referring only to "Arnold Schwarzenegger, Henry Kissinger and that Fabio guy."

Although he backed away from a proposed amnesty plan, he said he would consider a compromise designed to "make immigrants feel more welcome":

* Lighten the Border Patrol's image with a new name--the Border Fun Patrol--and new uniforms consisting of festive Hawaiian shirts and lederhosen.

* Speed up the citizenship application process by replacing the antiquated U.S. history exam--which most Americans can't even pass--with a more accurate gauge of whether the person will fit in.

New questions include: Which character on "Friends" is pregnant (Rachel, Monica or Ross)? Who is the father (Joey, David Crosby or Gary Condit)? How many herbs and spices are in the colonel's secret recipe?

* Eliminate the harsh, foreboding network of barricades and fences at the U.S.-Mexico border, and replace it with more subtle deterrents, such as signs with 9-foot-high markers that say: "You must be this tall to enter the United States."

* Erect a series of mazes along the U.S.-Canada border that lead potential immigrants right back into Canada.

* Replace such pejorative phrases as "illegal alien" and "undocumented worker" with more upbeat terms like "citizenship-challenged" and "permanent tourist."

* Improve conditions at INS detention centers. For example, at the San Onofre border checkpoint, stop using the reactor core of San Onofre's nuclear power plant as a holding cell.

* Show more tolerance for illegal space aliens. Instead of depicting them as malevolent beings bent on destroying Earth, focus on their contributions to the economy, including their willingness to perform jobs like busboy, carwash attendant and U.S. senator.

* Soften the rhetoric of anti-immigrant bumper stickers. For example, "Welcome to America. Now go home" would become "Welcome to America. Now go home PLEASE."

* Turn Ellis Island into an amusement park featuring such attractions as Tyrants of the Caribbean (in which visitors ride inner tubes and wooden planks to flee an animatronic Fidel Castro), Mr. Toad's Wild Border Chase and the Elian Gonzalez Huddled Masses Lounge.

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