Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Ten years later, still waiting for changes
Mention the word "immigration" and you could get a myriad of responses. Some people think we need to reform the system while others say we should seal off the borders entirely.
The 10th anniversary of the May 14, 2003, deaths of 19 immigrants entering the United States illegally in the back of a refrigerated trailer pushes this issue to the forefront once again. Since that incident, illegal attempts to enter the country have not slowed down, and some still end in tragedy. On July 22, 2012, a pickup truck carrying 23 people wrecked outside of Berclair in Goliad County, killing 15.
These incidents, as well as the ongoing threat of traffic chases, bailouts and other dangerous situations that play out regularly in our area raise important concerns. Obviously, our current system is not working - both Republicans and Democrats agree about that - but the solution is much more elusive.
The current system puts us in a situation similar to that of Prohibition. When reasonable regulations become too stringent or impractical, the criminal element steps in to fill the gap. Our current system makes criminals of the people who would otherwise be ready and willing to be constructive contributors to our society by earning wages, paying taxes and working toward earning a better life for themselves and their families. Yes, they made the decision, often out of desperation, to enter the country illegally, but the work they do once they are here is often good and contributes to our economic prosperity.
We believe our focus should be on enabling the good, productive workers in their desire to be a part of our society, either through guest worker permits or residency programs. Obviously, there are others who choose to bring crime, drugs and other illegal goods to our country, and they should be dealt with accordingly, but we do ourselves and our international neighbors wrong if we continue to push increasingly heavy regulations to stop immigration. If we continue, the only people we will be helping will be the criminals who profit from smuggling these desperate people into our country for exorbitant prices and then often sell them into domestic servitude once they arrive.
Those of us who live in the Crossroads see the effects of human trafficking and illegal immigration far too often. We need a solution that puts a stop to this dangerous, exploitive activity on our borders. Building a fence did not work. Now, it's time to explore other options, and we encourage our lawmakers to do just that.
Ten years after the deaths of 19 immigrants in the back of a trailer, the system has not changed or improved. It is time to sit down and find a workable solution. It may not be the solution everyone agrees with, but something must be done. Otherwise, the tragedies will only continue.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.