The following article originally appeared in Grand Junction’s June 23 Free Press.
Government granted amnesty — and should do so again
by Linn and Ari Armstrong
Amnesty is offered to those who have killed and wounded thousands of Americans. These illegal individuals have shown no respect for the borders or laws of the United States. Many among Congress and the public think the president has greatly overstepped his authority. But there it is. Lincoln’s plan of reconstruction, the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, December 8, 1863.
President Andrew Johnson’s Amnesty Proclamation of May 29, 1865, was similar to Lincoln’s plan. Many historians have noted that the importance of these proclamations was twofold. They healed the wounds of the divided country by bringing full citizenship to those who would play a future role in the greatness of the country. And they restored justice. Johnson issued his proclamation “that peace, order, and freedom may be established.”
If our presidents could offer amnesty to treasonous individuals responsible for over a half million deaths, surely we can offer amnesty to our neighbors from the south guilty only of working hard and providing for their families.
Recently Jill — we’ll call her Jill to protect her privacy — was sitting in Senator Ken Salazar’s office in Grand Junction describing to the senator’s aide her husband’s immigration problem. As a young child his parents brought him to the U.S.
Jill relates that they have been married for five years and have two beautiful children. They have been trying to work through the immigration system to legalize her husband at the cost of several thousand dollars.
Jill’s husband had returned to Mexico to request permission to return to the U.S, a process he was told would take probably no more than three weeks. Jill vented her frustration with the immigration system to the senator’s aide because she had just been informed that her husband and father of her children would have stay in Mexico for three years before he could apply to return.
Jill told the aid, “My husband came to this country as a child, his Spanish is poor, and he cannot find a job in Mexico. I am going to lose my house and car and go on welfare. But worst of all, the children will not be able to see their father.”
We find it ironic that the “family values” crowd is most insistent on breaking up families in such situations.
Jill’s husband did break the law, though he was too young to control his path. Neal Boortz mentioned to your elder author that illegal aliens have broken the law and therefore have to suffer the consequences.
However, our nation has a long history of disobeying unjust laws. Would you have condemned the Boston Tea Party for destruction of property? Would you have arrested the signers of the Declaration of Independence? Would you have convicted your fellow citizens for helping to free slaves in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Act?
Two pillars of a free society are property rights and the right to contract. Business owners have the right to hire willing employees of their choice, whether they’re from Grand Junction, Mack, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, or Mexico City. (Honestly, a lot of people from Los Angeles are more alien than many from Mexico.)
We should be particularly aware of this issue, as agriculture and other industries in this valley and this nation depend on migrant workers from Mexico.
Yes, U.S. citizens properly have greater freedom of movement within the country than people from other countries do coming in. Immigration should be controlled so that we know who’s crossing to stop criminals and carriers of contagious diseases. But we should not stop people from freely contracting with U.S. citizens to rent housing, buy goods and services, and work for a living.
Some illegal immigrants get welfare benefits and “free” health care and education, you say. We agree that’s wrong. But is it less wrong for a local-born citizen to take our money by force? The problem of welfare can and should be solved without restricting immigration.
Thankfully, Colorado made a modest step in the right direction this year with Marsha Looper’s bill 1325, which points out, “Colorado’s agriculture industry employs an estimated nine thousand seasonal workers annually, and the agriculture industry faces critical shortages of seasonal workers.” The bill established a “seasonal worker pilot program.”
While the bill takes needed steps to ensure local fruit doesn’t rot on the ground, farmers shouldn’t have to beg the state legislature for permission to hire people. This is America, the land of immigrants and the land of individual rights. To work for a living and contract with others for business is among our most important rights.
Mexicans and, yes, even Canadians should be allowed to freely seek work here, and business owners should be allowed to freely hire them. Amnesty is not a dirty word to us; it is necessary “that peace, order, and freedom may be established.”