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King: US needs the children of immigrants
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The situation in Egypt put the U.S. squarely between its interests and its ideals.

U.S. interests were with Hosni Mubarak. He brokered and maintained peace with Israel. Without him, that peace might fall apart. It still could. On the other hand, American ideals were always with the Egyptian people who want nothing more than to control their own destiny.

A similar situation exists in Georgia today, only this time our ideals and interests are on the same side. On the other side are nationalism and fear of the stranger. As a result some Georgians are calling for legislation to deny citizenship to children of undocumented parents and to make it harder for these struggling parents to find work and keep their families together.

Ideals: The Bible tells us to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, care for the sick, etc. It doesn't say, but first check their immigration status. The inscription beneath the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor reads, "Give me your tired, your poor ... Send these, the homeless, the tempest tossed ..." It doesn't say, "but not if they don't have the right papers."

Realism: OK, there are problems. We are still in a recession. Money is tight. Jobs are scarce, and we can't afford this kind of idealism any more. It's time to be realistic. But the fact that so many Americans are willing to turn their back on idealism, faith and the American Dream is distressing. Worse is the fact that changing the U.S. Constitution and employing other draconian measures to rid the country of undocumented aliens is not even in our best interests.

Interests: These are the people who harvest our crops, supply our service industry, and care for our elderly. When this is explained to some of our more xenophobic politicians, they back off and equivocate. "We'll find a way around this," they promise.
But let's suppose we do find a way to keep some of these immigrant workers, with or without legal status, and let's suppose we overlook the hypocrisy of creating an underclass of individuals with limited rights and opportunities. Is it in our best interest to do so?

 I don't think so, and here's why. The U.S. birth rate has fallen to the lowest level the nation has ever known. Like most developed countries, it is below replacement levels. We need children.

Way forward: What matters is not whether these children are legal or illegal. What matters is that they grow up to be educated, healthy, loyal Americans. They don't have to look like our founding fathers; they just have to hold similar values. Immigrants already believe America is the land of opportunity. That's why they're here.

We want these children to have a sound work ethic. We want them to share our commitment to strong families and a righteous nation. Maybe not all immigrants exhibit these values, but I can personally vouch for a number of them that do. And it helps if they are churchgoers, if only because it supports the family and strengthens the community.
Again, most immigrants are religious.

The fact that so many of them do not have a good command of the English language is a problem, but when their children are enrolled in public school, the problem solves itself. The second generation is as literate as any of their peers, even better because they grow up bilingual. The fact that most Americans are not fluent in any language other the English is a drawback in a competitive global economy.

Finally, is easier for politicians to promise solutions that will remove unwanted aliens than it is to explain why these people should be viewed as a potentially resource. These people are not criminals unless we make them so. Their crimes, when they do commit them, should be treated like any other crime, but their children should be
protected. We need them.

Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and on