Robbing Peter to Pay Pedro, by Ak’Bar Shabazz

Tough legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives to crack down on illegal immigration has created an intense national dialogue. According to polls, the once dormant issue of immigration reform is now a top priority.

Illegal aliens don’t want existing immigration laws to apply to them. They and their supporters are trying to flex their political muscle with nationwide rallies and marches.

According to lawmakers such as Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA), John McCain (R-AZ) and even President Bush, illegal aliens can do jobs that Americans refuse to do. They are only disregarding our laws and borders to improve the lifestyles of themselves and their families. They sometimes go so far as to compare their continued flouting of our laws to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

With the possible exceptions of Native Americans and those descended from slaves, Americans are either immigrants themselves or descended from them. Many braved tremendous obstacles to get here because their native lands became too inhospitable to stay.

Americans can appreciate the courage it takes to leave behind family and friends with little knowledge of English or our culture to seek a better life in the land of the free. We are a country of laws, however, and our freedom is rooted in rules and expectations. The same Americans who can appreciate an immigrant’s drive resent the refusal of many to comply with the rule of law.

Illegal immigrants fail to honor the system that manages millions of other immigrants who also desire better lifestyles for their families but play by the rules. It is arrogant for illegal immigrants to march in our streets to demand special treatment. They seem to think their ambitions trump our law and that their dreams take priority over others who have waited patiently to gain legal entry by going through the proper channels.

For illegal aliens to equate their actions to the civil rights movement is a slap in the face to those who marched decades ago. Those who struggled during that era were looking for equal rights, not special rights. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought to make our nation’s laws applicable and consistent to everyone, not to grant exceptions for certain groups.

The people now marching essentially demand that we not enforce existing immigration law, granting them exceptions over other immigrants. They often wave the flags of foreign countries and refuse to learn our language and culture. This is completely different from the integration African-Americans once struggled for.

Most Americans understand our immigration problem must be resolved. Although some politicians only salivate over the potential of 11 million new voters, the American people desire secure borders, maintaining our language and protecting our schools and social services from being manipulated by people who are not paying taxes to develop and maintain our infrastructure.

The canard used by politicians on both sides of the aisle that illegal aliens do the jobs that real citizens will not is laughable. Americans have always done what’s been needed. Before the great influx of illegal immigrants, it was Americans who were out in the fields, painting houses and doing landscaping.

These are not new jobs. It is disingenuous to say Americans will not do these jobs. It would be more accurate to say that these are jobs Americans won’t do for under minimum wage. Some who may appear motivated to righteousness are undoubtedly profiting from the cheap labor these illegal aliens represent.

It is also routinely overlooked that our economy is damaged when the money these people earn is sent back to Mexico or elsewhere instead of spent in our communities.

Americans will always appreciate those who are hard-working and seek better lifestyles. Our country was founded on those ideas. At the same time, Americans are protective of our country. They will oppose those who attempt to manipulate it or threaten its sovereignty.

# # #

Ak’Bar Shabazz, an Atlanta resident, is the president of Shabazz Enterprises and a member of the national advisory board of the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21 or the National Center for Public Policy Research.

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.