April 05, 2006

Will the last one in please turn off the lamp beside the golden door?

Columnist Fareed Zakaria suggests that the current drive to create a class of 'guest workers' in the US — workers who would have little or no hope of becoming citizens — would be a very bad mistake:

Many Americans have become enamored of the European approach to immigration -- perhaps without realizing it. Guest workers, penalties, sanctions and deportation are all a part of Europe's mode of dealing with immigrants. The results of this approach have been on display recently in France, where rioting migrant youths again burned cars last week. Across Europe one sees disaffected, alienated immigrants, ripe for radicalism. The immigrant communities deserve their fair share of blame for this, but there's a cycle at work. European societies exclude the immigrants, who become alienated and reject their societies....

Beyond the purely economic issue, however, there is the much deeper one that defines America -- to itself, to its immigrants and to the world. How do we want to treat those who are already in this country, working and living with us? How do we want to treat those who come in on visas or guest permits? These people must have some hope, some reasonable path to becoming Americans. Otherwise we are sending a signal that there are groups of people who are somehow unfit to be Americans, that these newcomers are not really welcome and that what we want are workers, not potential citizens. And we will end up with immigrants who have similarly cold feelings about America.

Note: The phrase 'lamp beside the golden door' mentioned in this post's title comes from Emma Lazurus' poem, 'The New Colossus,' the text of which was placed inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty when it was dedicated in 1883. You can read the poem here.

Via Washington Post.

Posted by Magpie at April 5, 2006 03:08 PM | US News | Technorati links |