News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

April 5, 2006

Pete Chalos: America must maintain high standards of immigration

My father John Chalos arrived from Greece at Ellis Island in 1910 for the purpose of working in Seattle. He ended up losing his ticket while the train was stopped in Terre Haute.

Remaining in Terre Haute, he worked hard and raised a family. He also went to night school, learned English and successfully became a U.S. citizen. He was very proud upon earning his citizenship. My mother, Katherine, my wife, Ulla, and my niece, Thanasoula, also studied hard to earn their citizenship papers. They learned the language, they studied the history and the government, they passed their exams, and they became productive, taxpaying citizens.

There are 12 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States, half of them from Mexico. All of these immigrants are afforded the same opportunity my relatives had to study hard, work hard and earn U.S. citizenship. If they are willing and able to do so, they can become legal and legitimate citizens of this great nation. Instead, these 12 million illegal immigrants want to take a shortcut around the law of the land. They want to circumvent the process and sneak in without paying their dues.

Now they are here among us, 12 million people who can barely speak English (if they can at all) and have no clue how our government functions are living in America, working for peanuts and becoming a burden on our social services programs. Some estimates put the number as high as 20 million illegal aliens.

These aliens are no longer jailed to await deportation. They are simply handed a notice to appear in court and released. The great majority never show up for the court date. The laws that govern these crimes are not properly being enforced. They are becoming devalued and will someday be rendered ineffective.

The companies that offer illegal aliens the incentive to break our laws, by hiring them to work in the United States, are also escaping penalty. In 1999, President Clinton’s administration collected more than $3.6 million in fines from 890 companies employing illegal workers. In 2004, under President Bush, the government collected $188,500 from 64 companies. In 2005, the Bush administration collected no fines.

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