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Census Report Spurs Calls for Tighter Control of Illegal Aliens

Tuesday, 29 January 2002 12:00 AM

"While we have long cautioned the U.S. government about its immigration policies, we were not aware of the magnitude of foreign nationals living here illegally," Mauro Mujica, chairman of U.S. English, a citizens' action group that advocates a crackdown on illegal immigration, said in a statement.

"Quasi-legal" immigrants, which number 1.7 million, are people who have applied for asylum or refugee status or who were granted "temporary protected status" by the U.S. government because their home countries have been hit by earthquakes or other natural disasters.

Figures show that 44 percent of illegal aliens are from Mexico and 12 percent are from Europe. Fifty-four percent are men, and 40 percent are ages 18 to 29.

In the report, the Census Bureau compared immigration service records on legal immigration with the actual population numbers found in the 2000 census, said Jack Martin, special projects director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

"So I think quite a bit of credence should be given to those estimates," he said.

Opinion is divided on the impact of large numbers of illegal immigrants living in the United States. Those who favor tighter controls say the illegal alien population has a tendency to drive down wages, which may benefit some employers and have some benefits for the consumer.

"But illegal immigrant labor also turns well-paying jobs into jobs Americans won't do, which means that many Americans who are also poorly educated and poorly skilled are put in a much more difficult situation than they would be if we had fewer illegal aliens in the country," said Martin, who favors tighter controls.

The presence of illegal aliens and a large number of legal aliens who are similarly poorly skilled and poorly educated is also contributing to the division of U.S. society between haves and have-nots, analysts said.

"We think [this] represents a dangerous trend seeing as how the strength of our society is founded on having a robust majority middle class, which we're losing," Martin said.

FAIR advocates combating illegal immigration by providing employers the means to verify identity documents provided to them by all of their new employees, making it more difficult for people in the country illegally to find jobs.

As the events of Sept. 11 have shown, the issue has assumed a national security dimension. Some 115,000 illegal aliens come from the Middle East, the census study said.

"Having so many people living in a shadowy existence in this country provides a cover for other aliens to engage in activities that may be criminal or may be terrorist, so we definitely think that that's a problem area," Martin said.

At least 16 of the 19 terrorists who hijacked the four commercial airplanes used to destroy the World Trade Center and damage the Pentagon entered the United States with student and tourist visas that expired before Sept. 11, records show.

By not insisting that immigrants wait their turn and comply with immigration laws, the U.S. government is sending the message that people can come to America illegally and not face consequences, Mujica of U.S. English said.

"It encourages more, not less illegal immigration, and serves to punish those who obey our immigration laws," he said.

Analysts who take a more libertarian stand say the vast majority of immigrants in the United States illegally are hard-working, law-abiding people who form the backbone of such key industries as agriculture, tourism and construction.

Devoting time and resources to finding and deporting them only drains resources from other needed areas and is ineffective, they said.

"We have been obsessed with catching peaceful, hard-working immigrants, mostly from Mexico, who have no desire other than to come here and work hard and earn money and save, and in a lot of cases go back to their homeland," said Dan Griswold, a trade and immigration analyst with the Cato Institute.

"Every dollar and every government employee we devote to raiding meat-packing plants and busting up hotels that are employing illegal workers are less resources that we can devote to catching terrorists who are trying to come into the country," he said.

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While we have long cautioned the U.S. government about its immigration policies, we were not aware of the magnitude of foreign nationals living here illegally, Mauro Mujica, chairman of U.S. English, a citizens' action group that advocates a crackdown on illegal...
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2002-00-29
Tuesday, 29 January 2002 12:00 AM
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