Immigrants and Aliens
A Growing Problem that Must be Addressed
Column by Sen. Trent Lott
Filed 3/30/06 GCN
A fellow from out of state called my office recently and said, “This may not be a big issue in Mississippi, but...” and then proceeded to leave his views on the problem of illegal aliens. Well, this is a big problem for Mississippians, as important to us as it is for big states like California or New York. Mississippi is an inclusive state, and we have a long history of welcoming immigrants — legal immigrants, that is. And like the rest of America, we’re struggling with the challenges posed by today’s illegal aliens.
The Italians and Chinese who came to the Delta, the Jewish immigrants who settled in several Mississippi cities, the Vietnamese who migrated to the coast and the German, Irish, Swedes and Scots who came to Mississippi generations ago, came here for the most part legally. They didn’t just walk across the border or make a mad midnight dash for the shore in contempt of our laws. They went through our naturalization processes step by step, learned English, and proudly obtained American citizenship and its benefits, with respect for our laws.
The immigration question we grapple with today is not one of legal immigrants but illegal aliens, primarily from Mexico, who are charging across our southern border. A lot of them are in Mississippi, working in tough low-skilled jobs. Without question, they work hard. Many are good family-oriented people who contribute to our economy. However, they remain illegal, undocumented, and the border they cross is too open, particularly as terrorists try to target America from within.
Certainly we must enhance our border security. We’ve got new technologies that can be used along our borders, particularly in terms of surveillance. In fact, a drone aircraft that we’re going to start making soon in Mississippi could help strengthen our border.
But we’ve got to do more than just strengthen our border. We must enact a comprehensive immigration reform measure that tackles this problem from all angles. That’s what we’re trying to do in the Senate right now, enact deep and historic immigration reform that is tailored toward today’s illegal alien challenge, instead of yesterday’s legal immigration.
What will the outcome be? It’s impossible for me or anyone else to predict right now. President Bush has advanced the idea of giving illegal aliens a special “guest worker” status. Mississippians have varying opinions on this. Without question, Mississippi needs available workers for our poultry houses, Katrina recovery and many other hard jobs. Yet, I’ve told President Bush for a long time that any guest worker program resembling an outright amnesty for illegal aliens will not be accepted by Mississippians or the American people.
We’re not hostile to Mexican nationals in Mississippi who largely share our values of family and faith, but, like the rest of America, we don’t want to see people who are here illegally benefitting from a largess provided by American taxpayers. We’re offended when we see “protests” against immigration reform measures carried out mostly by illegal aliens carrying their countries’ flags. Protesting — being a part of our political process and debate — is a right reserved for law abiding American citizens, not illegal aliens.
The illegal alien pathway goes through Mississippi. Almost every day along I-20, I-10 or I-55, our law enforcement agencies document the detention of cars and vans with dozens of illegal immigrants. It’s a growing problem that we must address. As immigration reform proposals are considered in Congress, I want Mississippi’s input so that I can ensure Mississippi’s imprint is rightfully on whatever immigration reform eventually passes.
Though their motives might be noble, today’s illegal aliens are much different from immigrants who come here legally generations ago. Their illegal status doesn’t make them bad people, but as long as they’re illegal, it is indeed bad for the diverse group of native and naturalized citizens who are proud to be American citizens.
Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column.
Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email