A MIX OF IDEAS
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EMIT CHAT IN A BAR
Immigration Reform Now
here are good reasons why
Jewish groups like the Hebrew
Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
and the American Jewish Committee
have been active advocates for compre-
hensive immigration reform. More than
most, the Jewish community under-
stands America's role as a safe haven
and land of opportunity for those "hud-
dled masses yearning to breathe free."
And more than most, we understand
the dangers of scapegoating immigrants
for political gain, sadly a long American
political tradition and one of the rea-
sons serious, fair-minded immigration
reform has been so difficult to pass in
A new immigration reform mea-
sure was introduced in the House
of Representatives just before the
December holiday recess. It is critically
important that Congress move swiftly
on this issue — and not just because
the American immigration system is
The Comprehensive Immigration
Reform for America's Security and
Prosperity Act, introduced by Rep. Luis
Gutierrez, D-Ill., would beef up border
security, increase support for family
reunification and change employment
verification procedures, among other
Also included is an "earned legaliza-
tion program" for some of those who are
in this country illegally.
That represents an important start.
Family reunification must be a key
goal of the legal immigration system.
Immigration bottlenecks need to
eliminated. And Jewish groups have
long argued that truly significant reform
must include a path to legalization for
undocumented immigrants — although
a Zogby poll in January suggested that
the Jewish rank and file may not feel as
strongly on the issue.
Don't get us wrong: illegal immigration
is a problem that needs to be addressed.
And in this age of global terrorism, bor-
der security must be a priority.
We ignore those realities at our own
But scapegoating illegal immigrants
as the carriers of crime and disease who
steal American jobs and endanger our
communities has become a too-com-
mon feature on our political landscape,
promoted by talk-show hosts who
exploit legitimate fears, and too often
America — a
fact our own
built on a foun-
dation laid by
in a very differ-
is critical to preserving the pluralism
and tolerance that have been so good to
American Jews and to countless other
Serious, comprehensive and balanced
immigration reform is long overdue;
we hope this is the year a reluctant
Congress will finally act intelligently
and responsibly. ❑
This editorial comment originally appeared in
the New York Jewish Week on Jan. 8. Please
share your thoughts online:
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Cabbages And Kings
ne of the strangest characters in
the works of Charles Dickens is
a fellow named Mr. Dick. He has
been described as a "harmless lunatic" by
literary critics. Well, maybe.
He turns up in David Copperfield,
writing a letter to the lord high commis-
sioner that he will never finish. That's
because after every few sentences, he
begins, instead, to write about King
Charles I was the only English king
to be executed after a trial. The method,
of course, was decapitation. Although it
had happened some 200 years before Mr.
Dick's lifetime, he just could not let it go.
I think of poor Mr. Dick every time I
follow a story on my computer and enter
a chat room where people are invited to
give their opinions on what they have
It makes you wonder how much longer
a democracy governed by an enlightened
citizenry has to go.
February 4 • 2010
It's not a question of whether
they agree or disagree with me.
It's the tone and the content
of these replies that resembles
Mr. Dick on steroids.
While there is a minority
who address the issue in a
civil and rational way, the rest
should be placed in restraints
as soon as possible. These peo-
ple vote, I keep telling myself,
and their parents love them.
It makes no difference
what the article was about.
Earthquake in Haiti. A terror-
ist with flaming underwear.
Censorship in China. Bombs in Gaza.
Rioting in Africa. Strife in Iran.
Their answer is always the same. It's
all because of race: The decline of faith
by banning prayer in the public schools.
The legalization of abortion that brought
down the wrath of God.
Too much government. Too little
roughage in your diet. The des-
And how do we address
these issues? Well, first we call
any e-mail writer who dissents
from your opinion every name
in the book. It goes something
• Reader One: Closer atten-
tion to tectonic shifts in the
Caribbean must be paid to pre-
vent another major quake there.
• Reader Two: You stupid
obscenity. Are you looking
at who lives on that obscene
island? Nothing but a bunch of
obscene racial term running around bab-
bling in French.
• Reader Three: God will strike you
both down dead.
• Mr. Dick: It's because of that deceased
monarch's head laying right in front of
you. Are you too obtuse to see it?
Mr. Dick may have been obsessed, but
he kept his cranial delusions to himself.
These guys have a world-wide audience
of drooling fools.
King Charles' head did cause some
problems in its time. The restored Stuart
monarchy vowed to hunt down and kill
every judge who voted for the death
sentence. A few fled to America and near
New Haven, Conn,. there is a rocky out-
growth called Judges' Cave where some of
them managed to elude their pursuers.
There have also been many examples
of extreme partisanship throughout
American history. But in most cases, they
have been clustered around reasonable
issues where some logic prevails.
How do you argue with someone who
screams that halitosis is the root of all
evil? One Mr. Dick is a comic triumph.
A few thousand of them bellowing their
received truths aren't funny at all. ❑
George Cantor's e-mail address is