Friday, November 21, 2014

I Engage Senator Thune's South Dakota Field Honcho Qusi Al-Haj On Immigration Policy. There's A South Dakota Angle To This.

     Just had a decent e-mail exchange over immigration policy with Qusi Al-Haj, the man in charge of Senator Thune's South Dakota offices.  What set it off was this observation by a mutual friend, who e-mailed it around to several people (enough for me to consider this on-the-record stuff), Al-Haj included.  Al-Haj's brief but well-taken observations and questions merit consideration, particularly from a South Dakotan's (that would be moi) perspective.  Said our mutual friend in his e-mail with the subject line "immigration speech:"
"We are and will always be a nation of immigrants.  It is our one common experience."
     To which I replied:  "I came over here on a boatload of postwar European refugees, among the last to be processed through Ellis Island in 1950.  We had nothing but a couple of suitcases full of clothes--and the infinite value of a future in America. You guys that know me see the results, and I was but one of millions who share the same story. I have no doubt that the many immigrants about to be institutionalized as part of this country will become a positive social and economic force that will benefit all Americans."
   Al-Haj's reply to the original sentiment:  "I agree.  We are also a nation of laws."
   My answer to Al-Haj:  "Laws are only as effective and meaningful as their enforcement, Qusi.  The jump in illegal immigrants that started around 2000 has stabilized at around 11 million, so this nation of laws has dropped the law enforcement ball millions of times in recent years, spanning at least two administrations.  Now what does this nation of laws do about it? Suddenly rediscovering the law isn't a way out.  Processing and integrating these illegals seems the only practical way of dealing with a status quo that is probably embedded in this country for the foreseeable future.  I'll address this in my blog today, directing at you in hopes of it getting passed along to Senator Thune."
   Al-Haj's challenging and thought-provoking response:  "John,
Two other questions to raise: Fairness to those who have been waiting legally in line for over a decade?
How can we prevent another 11 million challenge in the future?"
   My response:  "Qusi, fairness was one of the first casualties of American immigration policy dating back to the 19th century.  For a recent example, given that we live by the universal principle of equal treatment under the law, the EB-5 visa program (supported by Senator Thune) is tilted unequally in favor of the wealthy.  Why is it fair that people of means get to step to the head of the "green card" line when everybody else either waits their turn or has to find a way to enter illegally?  To answer your direct question, it isn't fair, but if Senator Thune and his colleagues put their minds to it, I have no doubt that the backlog of immigrants awaiting entry can be relieved by a quicker processing method than now exists.  Consider that South Dakota has a serious labor shortage, similar to those in Iowa and Nebraska according to recent news.  We can use some of those backlogged immigrants.  Tell Senator Thune to get a move on!  As to prevention down the road.  I don't know how to do it, but then I wasn't elected to the United States Senate on the premise that I can solve problems like this. Take the last word here.  See you at lunch.  P.S. I think some or all of this exchange will show up in my blog today. Thanks for squeezing it out of me! Best wishes, John"



  1. Thune can't support legal status for dairy workers: they'd leave for better paying jobs and force the French cheese factory in Brookings to raise wages.

  2. John, our now totally Republican Congressional Delegation has painted themselves into a corner on this issue, and many others, that they can't or won't get out of because of Republican policy over the last 6 years of blocking everything the President has tried to do. This policy has hurt the country and South Dakota, to bad voters won't hold them accountable.