The Immigration Question: Who Should Benefit?

By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh

The Perspective

September 12, 2001

Mexican president, Vicente Fox seems to be on the right track in the heyday of his young administration for the many positive things he has done for his people in the short time he become their leader.

Mexico is a country of over 90 million people, with an estimated 3.5 million Mexicans entering the United States illegally, and are working without legal protection. There are also 500,000 Mexicans who entered the United States legally.

Like most immigrants, Mexicans are the backbone of the U.S economy, doing odd jobs most Americans dare do. It is also estimated that Mexican nationals in the United States have bolstered their country's economy by transmitting roughly 2 billion dollars to relatives at home.

With a Mexican population swelling across the United States, many have suggested that president Bush pandered politically to the Mexican (Hispanic) votes when he floated the notion of granting some type of amnesty to illegal Mexican immigrants.

Mr. Fox is not only working with his U.S. counterpart in addressing cross-border issues such as environmental cleanup, education exchange programs and cooperation on drug trafficking and organized crime, he is leading a lone crusade for immigration reform between the United States and Mexico.

That aggressiveness alone, and his desire to put the plight of his people on the front burner in terms of his advocacy for immigration reforms before the American people and politicians is admirable.

Yes, president Fox is trying hard to convince congress and the Bush administration to reach immigration reforms that would legalize the status of illegal Mexican workers in the United States. Fox is not only asking America to reform immigration for citizens from his country, he is demanding, and is insisting that his nation and the United States "must and can reach agreement on immigration reform by the end of this year."

And that's not all. President Fox is even eyeing and talking about the immigration pact between the United States and its neighbor to the north, Canada, that allows citizens from those two countries to travel freely without any hindrance between their borders. That, he wished could also happen between the United States and its neighbor to the south.

The only roadblock between Fox and his dream for immigration reform is congress, especially conservative republicans, according to the Los Angeles Times "who are eager for a guest-worker program that would invite in 200,000 or more temporary Mexican workers to fill low-skilled jobs, but opposes legalization of the more than 3 million Mexicans already believed to be living and working illegally in the United States."

Though Fox's heart is in the right place for his people, and cannot be blamed for his efforts, he deserves a whole lot of credit for looking out for the citizens of Mexico. However, Fox's immigration crusade for Mexican nationals, which the Bush administration has flirted with has drawn the envy of other immigrants who believes they too deserves to be accorded that same courtesy since they also fall within the category of illegal immigrants.

Many Liberians wished they don't have to go through the humongous bureaucratic nightmare they often encountered to be eligible for green cards and work permits, since there is historic linkage between the two countries. Many Liberians also wished they had the luxury of a credible president who could use his office and the influence to speak to America like the recently-elected president Fox is doing to foster ties between his country and the United States.

Unlike Vincente Fox who visits the United States (like it is his farm road), to lobby lawmakers on important issues concerning his country, Charles Taylor, on the other hand is a far cry from even entering the American embassy in Monrovia, let alone visiting the United States.

Whereas, all preceding Liberian presidents had established a cordial and good relations with the United States, Charles Taylor has Put Liberia on a confrontational and destructive path with the United States. Recently, a former Liberian Ambassador, Dr. James Teah Tarpeh, was quoted as saying that "a policy of confrontation and/or indifference towards the United States will not serve 'a useful purpose to his (Taylor's) Government, nor will it promote the welfare and well-being of the war weary people of Liberia.'"

Had Charles Taylor, who, according to himself and his surrogates is the "democratically elected" president of Liberia actually practiced democracy, instead of just talking about it, that act of democratic engagement alone would have at least eclipsed his checkered past. By practicing democracy, Charles Taylor could have gradually worked his way towards respectability and credibility.

There are many hard-working Liberians who are currently residing illegally in the United States, and are working their butts off to make ends meet for themselves and their families. Those Liberians are humble and decent people who are not looking for free meals and pity, but a chance to participate in the wonderful American dream. Those Liberians also deserve better than the annual renewal of work permits. To say it bluntly, they need their green cards. The discredited Charles Taylor is not Vicente Fox, and is not capable of making their case to the government and people of the United States, to grant them immigration amnesty by virtue of their long suffering and the emotional scars they bear - the results of that long-fought civil war.

But Liberian organizations all over the United States have stepped up to the plate, and are doing a heck of a job. The support of Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Senator Jack Reed from Rhode Island, who are lending their support and pushing through an immigration bill, "Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 2001," for Liberians to become permanent residents, must be applauded. The current status Liberians have - the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) granted by former US President Bill Clinton - will expire on Sept 29, 2001. What would become the fate of more than 10,000 Liberians is anyone's guess. What is clear, however, is that that once "special" and "historic" relationship Liberia had with the United States - whatever it meant and however significant it was - has been destroyed by Charles Taylor.

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