Our View: Congress' top priority

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— Congress goes back to work Thursday with a new Democratic majority and without a November election to worry about.

Let's hope that's enough to produce meaningful progress on a pressing national and local issue - immigration reform.

The year just ended produced lots of rhetoric on immigration but little else. At the state level, the legislature wasted a week on a special session that mostly gave lawmakers political cover to stump on. Yes, Colorado now has the strictest laws in the nation when it comes to preventing illegal immigrants from accessing state social services. But there was no evidence that was a problem to begin with. At least one study showed illegal immigrants' contributions to state income, sales and property taxes are equal to or greater than the cost to provide them services.

At the federal level, politicians managed lots of partisan debate but accomplished little reform. A month before the fall election, they approved a 700-mile, double-sided fence to be built along the border. But that was, at best, a largely symbolic gesture, since the bill included no funding for the fence, which will cost billions.

We also fully support efforts to better secure our southern border. Investing in additional personnel, equipment and training for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is vital, especially in a post-Sept. 11 world. But enhancing border security does nothing to address the fundamental economic realities that always have and always will drive illegal immigration.

That's why meaningful immigration reform must include a guest-worker program, which President Bush has advocated for years and which the U.S. Senate included in legislation that died last year.

A guest-worker program would allow immigrants to fill much-needed jobs in the U.S., pay their share of taxes, obtain health insurance and go home knowing they will be able to return for work. It would allow the U.S. government to better document who is here and why. It would reduce the incentive that drives the worst element in the illegal immigration issue - human smugglers.

A recent NBC News special report - the 21st Century Immigrant story - showed the impact that illegal immigration is having on the Roaring Fork Valley, including Aspen and Vail. The eight-month investigation showed that the economy is thriving and growing, but also that it is very much dependent on illegal immigrant workers.

In Steamboat Springs, similar trends are occurring. Five years ago, there were a dozen English as a Second Language students in our school district; today, there are more than 100. More and more, unskilled jobs in the agriculture, construction and resort service industries are being filled by immigrants, no doubt many of them illegal. And those numbers are going to continue to rise, now that Colorado has passed legislation raising the state's minimum wage.

Those who advocate rounding up and deporting the 12 million illegal immigrants estimated to be in this country are ignoring the economic consequences of such an action.

There has to be a better way, a way that allows foreign workers to work jobs that will go unfilled without them, a way that brings those workers out of the shadows and lets them participate, financially and otherwise, in our society.

Shame on Congress if another year goes by without such reforms.

Comments

gwendolyn 7 years, 3 months ago

http://nationalpriorities.org/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=182

Cost of war in Iraq = $356,165,900,000 and growing with every passing second....

The only pressing national issue to me. Immigration reform isn't even on the radar, compared to the war in Iraq.

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Scott Stanford 7 years, 3 months ago

"Merry Simp" ... is that like a "Happy Yahoo?"

I did get this def. of "simp" from the Urban dictionary: a guy who acts all tough like he doesn't care about his girlfriend around his friends but acts all whipped in front of his girlfriend.

All whipped, Scott Stanford Editor, Steamboat PIlot & Today (970) 871-4221/(970) 291-9278

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vic 7 years, 3 months ago

ROFLMAO - a town full of Yahoos and Simps.

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dave mcirvin 7 years, 3 months ago

gwendolyn, you couldn't be more right on. the full financial impact alone will not be comprehended for decades. setting aside the overt emotional-mental/physical/financial strife, one most credible estimate on the cost for disabled/dismembered veteran gi's will be in the tens to hundreds of trillions.

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OneFly 7 years, 3 months ago

"Shame on Congress if another year goes by without such reforms"

Shame on this paper for assisting in the invasion of Iraq. The same is happening here again. The biggest issue in this country is Iraq! You helped get us there now help get us out.

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dave mcirvin 7 years, 3 months ago

I do not believe that immigration reform is the most important item to deal with now. The Iraq civil war exit (unlike Tucker Carlson-we do owe the people of Iraq plenty), federal deficit-fiscal responsibility, uninsured Americans, education, environmental reform with massive epa mileage standards revisions, campaign finance-ethics reform, attempting to fix medicare and social security come to mind way before immigration reform and a puppet 700 mile long wall.

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vic 7 years, 3 months ago

Illegal immigration impacts everything on your list - except the war in Iraq. Obviously you do not see the whole picture on illegals...sucking our country dry. You need to take a closer look.

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dave mcirvin 7 years, 3 months ago

dear vic, sucking the country dry?...Intuitively, I don't believe so and you may be out of touch with the rest of America. According to yesterday's USA-today and CNN poll only 10% of the sample believe that immigration reform should be the highest priority for the new 119th congress. Not surprising, 72% believe it's Iraq.

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vic 7 years, 3 months ago

USA Today and CNN? LOL - check your local numbers. Of course the war will always be on the top of the list.

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vic 7 years, 3 months ago

Then of course after they deliver their babies for FREE, they live for FREE on WIC, foodstamps, etc...and did I mention they do not pay INTO our social service programs? Yes, sucking our country dry. And the list goes beyond medical and social services. I don't mind paying into these programs with my hard earned tax dollars and I don't mind helping American citizens get over the hump, but I DO mind supporting illegals who contribute absolutely nothing.

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dave mcirvin 7 years, 3 months ago

isn't America beautiful. thank goodness (not God) it's turning more blue.

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vic 7 years, 3 months ago

Scary to see so many Americans care so little for America. Ungrateful at best.

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id04sp 7 years, 3 months ago

So, what is the new Congress doing with its first 100 hours?

It's taking the day off for the college football BCS game this evening.

Twelve years of complaining over political issues, and then they get back in power, and the first thing they do is give themselves a day off. How many will die in Iraq on the day after what should have been the last day of American involvement because Congress decided to blow off a day to watch a football game?

I guess those 100 hours must be "dog hours" or something; every seven hours only counts as one, or something like that?

Welcome to America, and have a nice day.

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dave mcirvin 7 years, 3 months ago

Thanks, I stand corrected. It's 1-2 trillion. http://papers.ssrn.com/50/3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=885651 or google Columbia economist Joseph Stiglitz

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id04sp 7 years, 3 months ago

It was reported on the news last night that when the new Democratically controlled Congress passed the new minimumw age law, the territory of American Somoa was exempted. The biggest employer in American Somoa is Starkist Tuna, which is owned by Del Monte Foods, headquartered in San Francisco, CA.

Guess who represents San Francisco in the House of Representatives? One little guess?

NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20070110-112625-6437r.htm

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Hadleyburg_Press 7 years, 3 months ago

id04sp, Please, please stop pointing out the utter hypocrisy of our politicians. It is just too damn painful to always have my dismal faith in any form of altruism shattered...

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id04sp 7 years, 3 months ago

Hadleyburg_Press,

Altruism is not a liberal affliction. It's possible to do good for your fellow man without without trying to force everybody else to fund it with tax dollars.

The problem is that too many "liberal" folks don't have a lot of money to give away because of their career and lifestyle choices. The ones who do give a lot of it away are the ones who have made so much money that they could never spend it all on themselves.

The experiments in social engineering since the Roosevelt administration have only proved that human nature is split between those who will work to succeed and those who are content to get by on the minimum. The reason our society is not prosperous all the way down to the bottom wage earner is that those on the bottom do the minimum required to live because anything else would require more effort and maybe some sacrifice.

There are those who are generous in their prosperity, and those who will lie, cheat and steal to get every cent they can.

Our government should punish the corrupt and greedy people who got there by victimizing others. Instead, our government punishes all affluent people with a "progressive" tax system.

Our government rewards mediocrity by giving the low end an incentive to stay low through redistribution of income and social services benefits. Did you know that the "Earned Income Tax Credit" is actually a tax refund to people who didn't pay the tax in the first place? So, how about ending the EITC when the new minimum wage law is passed?

So, anyway, if the cost of tuna goes up 50% because of the minimum wage, maybe people will spend less on potato chips and beer. More likely, the tuna canneries will move out of the U. S. territories, and a lot of Americans in those territories will be out of work.

"Altruism" is defined as an unselfish concern for the welfare of others. Does that really apply when you're not the one directly being unselfish? Forcing other people to pay higher wages is not the same as voluntarily giving up part of your own income so that others can have more. Unless your own taxes go up or your own disposable income goes down to fund the wage increase for others, how can you claim an altruistic motivation? I don't think you can.

Just to keep the record straight, Pelosi has now gone public and asked for American Samoa to be included in the minimum wage hike. She claims she didn't know there was a link between her district and Starkist tuna. Right. The truth is, you probably just won't find it anywhere in writing. The minimum wage increase has been a Pelosi issue for a long time, but it was probably more attractive when she could complain about it without having to be accountable for the results. She blamed someone "on the committee" for the "oversight." It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the days to come.

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Hadleyburg_Press 7 years, 3 months ago

id04sp, Please, please stop pointing out the utter hypocrisy of our politicians. It is just too damn painful to always have my dismal faith in any form of accountability shattered...

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id04sp 7 years, 3 months ago

Hadley,

And that's the problem with liberals. They don't believe in accountability for personal actions. It's always somebody else's fault when something goes wrong.

Wrong.

You can't simply vote for Democrats and think your problems will all be solved. Each of us has to take personal responsibility for our own welfare, and has to hold our government officals accountable for their actions.

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