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The real immigration problem

You’ll never catch me talking tough or mean about immigrants, legal or illegal.

I’ve always liked people who are brave enough, smart enough and ambitious enough to leave their nasty native lands or backward cultures and come to America, where they too often are not welcomed or appreciated by the folks who got here first.

My tolerance for immigrants probably is genetic. My mother was an immigrant. She came from Canada in the late 1930s to go to Pitt. And my dad’s mother, Anna Frisco, got off the boat in New York Harbor from Sicily on Nov. 3, 1909. She traveled alone and carried $30 — $600 in today’s money. She was 10.

My Mom’s Canadian culture and Irish heritage posed no threat to America’s way of life. But my grandmother was part of the unwashed horde of Eastern and Southern European migrants that crowded our cities to overflowing and freaked out the WASPs who ran the country but ultimately transformed us into a rich nation of pizza and pierogi eaters.

Today, thanks to years of failed government immigration policies, scary new waves of immigrants swarm into the states from Mexico and Central America, legally and illegally. Open-border advocates and businessmen say these millions do what immigrants have always done — provide young, hard-working, low-cost, raw human talent for a dynamic economy that always needs it.

Anti-immigration forces argue immigrants cost taxpayers billions in social services. Unions say immigrants — who have a bad habit of working harder for less pay than natives — steal their members’ jobs.

And hysterics like Pat Buchanan warn that Hispanic immigrants are here not to assimilate, but to reconquer our Southwest and supplant our hallowed red-white-and-blue culture with their alien brown one.

But immigrants aren’t the real problem. They don’t cause unemployment, deficits or terrorism. As always, virtually all come here to work and better themselves, not to do nasty things or become welfare recipients.

It’s not immigrants’ fault that our government and politicians can’t or won’t run an orderly, efficient, non-bureaucratic, unpoliticized immigration system. It’s not their fault our social welfare industry sucks too many immigrants into the dead-end world of entitlements and dependency. It’s ours.

We don’t need protection against foreign human imports any more than we need protection against foreign steel or Japanese cars. America — especially cities like Pittsburgh that grew great because of immigrant brains and brawn and are dying because they can’t attract them any more — needs all the hardworking bodies it can get.

Instead of building reverse Berlin Walls on our borders, we should be figuring out how to give Hispanic immigrants temporary work permits so they can freely criss-cross our borders, the way rock stars and Euro-bankers can.

Help nonresident immigrants open bank accounts and encourage them to live here legally and permanently. But don’t give them welfare benefits upon arrival or segregate their kids in schools by language or ethnicity.

Unions will still whine about lost jobs. Buchanans will still wail about our culture (which is taking over the world) being undermined, not enhanced. Tough. History shows immigrants are priceless national resources, not liabilities. Immigrants are what make New York City and L.A. perpetual boomtowns. Immigrants are what made America great — and a lot less boring.


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