ARIZONA DAILY STAR
A new survey provides valuable information on the motives of
illegal entrants from Mexico, helping frame the debate over whether to create a
guest-worker program and a track toward permanent residency.
The study by the Pew Hispanic Center seems to show that most
illegal entrants now in the United States would like to stay here if they can -
but an even larger share would take part in a temporary immigration program that
would require they return to Mexico.
The findings were seized upon by the most outspoken opponent of
real immigration reform, U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., who sees vindication
in the results: "The vast majority of illegal aliens polled have no intention of
returning to their countries of origin."
To Tancredo and his allies in the Federation for American
Immigration Reform, "guest worker" is a lie. They see proof in the Pew study,
which is based on interviews with nearly 5,000 people at Mexican diplomatic
missions coast to coast.
U.S. Rep. Raśl Grijalva doesn't see any surprises in these survey
results, either, but he views them as important. "This is the reality - these
people already are in our country," Grijalva said in an interview. "You can't
assume you're going to have that workforce just go away."
The Tucson Democrat touches on a part of the immigration debate
that gets little attention in a politically charged atmosphere fueled by those
who view sealing the border as the only priority. Grijalva is talking about
America's end game.
That's the issue all of Congress is supposed to be taking up,
too, though it won't be in time to stop the coming season of hot-weather border
deaths in the deserts of Arizona. President Bush has other priorities, and no
one is predicting anymore when this one will get his full attention.
When it does come to the fore, it should include provisions that
allow us to control access at the border, permit Mexican nationals to work here
legally on a temporary basis, and create a track for permanent residency.
Without all three considerations, none has a chance to work - unless Tancredo
and FAIR are considering some kind of illegal-immigrant roundup.
"I would hope it doesn't need to come to that," Grijalva says. "I
think that would be a devastating moment in our nation's history."
The motives of illegal immigrants already in the country should
certainly figure into the debate over immigration reform. But what they want
must be balanced against the needs of the United States. In many respects,
including the jobs that immigrants are willing to do, these interests dovetail.
But the most important survey is the one that moves immigrants
one way or the other once this country finally arrives at a workable national
● To see complete results of the Survey of Mexican
Migrants, visit pewhispanic.org online.