Arizona has the right idea about immigration

I am delighted that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the “stop and check” provision of the Arizona immigration law. That may provoke howls of “immigrant hater!” but that’s not the case. I’m not anti-immigrant. I’m anti-uneven playing field.

Some history: I came here to the United States back in 1992. It took me two years to get an H1 visa, which allowed me to work, but not live, in the States. It then took me a further three years just to get to the application stage for a green card. In between all of the heartache and red tape, I lost $8,000 to a so-called immigration attorney from Lebanon, $5,000 more to another immigration attorney from America—and finally, blew yet another $8,000 with a reputable (although I didn’t know it until the deal was done) immigration attorney from South Africa. This gent got me an interview with the U.S. embassy in London—not San Francisco, where I was living at the time. He only got that interview because I had decided to marry a lady who was born here in the States.

Here’s the thing that leaves me pissed off at the whole process. I’m a Scotsman. I’m not from Yemen or Vietnam or any other asylum-seeking Third World country. I’m not indigent. I’m a successful entrepreneur with several thriving businesses. In addition, I’m normal and not looking for handouts. So it’s a little puzzling that the US of A would be so reluctant to let me take up permanent residence while allowing millions of impoverished ne’er do wells to stream across the borders.

Now, hop into my time machine with me and let’s go back to the 1930s and 40s and before. The people who came to this country from Europe were processed, documented, and then assimilated into a society that made life extremely difficult for them. For the most part, they were not welcome. The Irish and Italians especially—Catholics regarded with suspicion and hostility by largely white Anglo-Saxon Protestant Americans—were treated like bums. These new immigrants understood that because they came with nothing and would be given little, the only way forward was to work like crazy to earn livings, build businesses, create communities, and eventually become US citizens. It took years, but they eventually built the modern U.S.

It took me 16 years to become a citizen because I was willing to play by the rules of the system. If I’d arrived in a boat from Cuba ranting about torture and begging for asylum, I would have been taking the citizenship oath before lunchtime. America, charity to the needy is laudable, but this is ridiculous!

And so to Arizona. More than 400,000 illegal immigrants live there—almost 12 million in the Lower 48. How did they get in? How do they abuse our system? How do they get away with everything that was impossible for me and all those millions just like me who came to this country the right way?

This is instructive about how incredibly broken this system is. I was hospitalized in 2009 and the bill for five days came to $86,000 and change. My insurance paid 99% of the bill, but when I questioned some of the charges, things started to look very strange. A box of gloves every day? One hundred Oxycontin pills?  It went on and on. So, being by usual brash self, I called billing from my hospital bed and asked them what was going on. The reply (and I quote this verbatim): “Well sir, we overcharge your insurance by about half, and they always pay, so we put the extra into a fund that caters for those without insurance who come in off the streets looking for care.”

What the f&@k?

Let me make this clear for you, Dear Reader. My insurance company is charged double so that the extra portion can go to cover the costs of anyone who wanders in off the street for medical attention and can’t pay? Does this make any sense? Now, I understand that income inequality is a problem in this country. The rules are not written to favor people of slim means. I get that. But there is a chasm of difference between a system that makes it harder for people to climb the income ladder and one that actively screws over the productive in order to reward those who want to suck off the system. And while I’m sure that some of the people who get free healthcare off the back of my insurance premiums are virtuous souls who have just hit a run of bad luck, how do we separate the virtuous from the scam artists? Is anyone even trying?

This happened right before my eyes in my local Safeway supermarket. The lady in front of me at the check out brought out a wad of something I’d never seen before to pay for her $200 worth of groceries. While her kids stood waiting, the cashier counted her wad and asked her to pay $5 for two carts worth of groceries. That was that, and the lady walked out of the store. Curious, I inquired what the wad had been.

“Food Stamps.”

“Oh, I’ve never seen them before, and certainly not in this area,” I said. The cashier rolled her eyes. I paid (with actual money), walked out the door and I kid you not, the food stamp lady was driving away in a Cadillac SUV that was so new that the dealer plates were still on the car! It’s like a cruel joke.

So here’s my stance and why I applaud Arizona. If you want to come illegally into the U.S., be prepared to pay the price for your ilegal actions. Does “stop and check” inconvenience innocents and discriminate? Yes, of course it does. But since it started in Arizona, crime is down, prison populations are down, hospital lines are down and so is the illegal use of food stamps. President Obama said today, “No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like.” Well, Mr. Obama, if the only people here were here legally, it wouldn’t matter, would it?

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