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Sounding off about immigration: three Americans who have extensive experience with our country's immigration system interject personal perspective into the immigration debate.

Ezola Foster

Ezola Foster was a leader in the fight to pass Proposition 187 in California in 1994, which would have banned public assistance to illegal aliens. She is also a retired teacher who ran as the vice-presidential candidate for the Reform Party in 2000.

While she was in education, Mrs. Foster taught varied courses--such as government, civics, business law, English, and reading--and was a school administrator at an inner city school in Los Angeles near the once-infamous Watts Jordan Downs housing project. When she was transferred to a school with a student body primarily composed of the children of illegal immigrants, she saw the disparities created by catering to illegals: for the illegals, the school waived the requirement to provide a birth certificate and have up-to-date immunizations (the school gave the illegals free immunizations); free college scholarships went to many illegals, and the rest were allowed to pay in-state college tuition rates; the school diverted funding to teach in the immigrants' native languages (while at the same time taking services from American children); overcrowding occurred, putting a burden on taxpayers; and teachers who could speak a second language (mainly Spanish) got higher pay than those who couldn't.

She strongly advocates controlled immigration because she sees present immigration policies fracturing the country, tearing apart the constitutional governance the U.S. relies on. She says, "Most illegal immigrants (especially those from Mexico) want laws to accommodate 'their race'--La Raza. They don't want to learn English; they're not interested in becoming American. And why should they? They see America's elected officials, from the White House to their local town councils, favoring non-citizens over American citizens. It is a sad day in America that lawmakers are siding with lawbreakers over law-abiding citizens. Sadder still is seeing America go from a nation of laws protecting individual freedoms to a nation of rules based on group rights."

In place of unfettered immigration, she would like to see our immigration laws enforced (health and economic screenings); immigration preferences for English speakers; and election laws that ensure only citizens vote, using English-only ballots.

Proposition 187, which she worked hard to promote, was passed handily by voters, but a federal judge voided it, and a former California governor, Gray Davis, stopped the judicial decision from being appealed to the Supreme Court. But Mrs. Foster is not discouraged. She says that this is an important fight, and it will be a long fight, but "only if you give up are you assured of not winning."

Krzysztof L. Nowak, Sr.

As an immigrant from Poland who spent years of his life in the United States working as a lawyer, helping people from communist Eastern Europe gain asylum in America, Krzysztof L. Nowak, Sr., has been immersed in the immigration process as few others have.

He came to this country from Poland in 1966 when one of his mother's sisters, who was living in the United States, sponsored his entire family. Because he was already 14 when he came to America, he remembers what it was like to live in a communist country--the things that could not be legally said, done, or learned. Although he now works in real estate, for many years he represented Poles, Russians, Czechs, Hungarians, Romanians, and Ukranians in legal cases when they sought asylum in the United States. He laughs as he describes what life would have been like if he had become a lawyer in communist Poland, instead of in the United States. The "representation" that he would have given his clients in criminal cases in Poland would have consisted largely of pleading guilty for his clients in state-run, stage-managed hearings and pleading for mercy from the court.

He says that most of the people he represented in asylum cases had been what would be termed "illegal immigrants." They came here legally, overstayed their visas, and then applied for asylum.

Mr. Nowak's experiences have left him somewhat torn as to what should be done about immigration. He says that his heart tells him that we're all immigrants and therefore have no moral right to deny entry to others who wish to come here, but intellect and pragmatism force him to overrule his heart--to an extent. He says that events have proven that our country cannot have loose or unrestricted immigration because "when you open the borders, you open them not only for good people, but for bad ones too." And so, he believes, we need to have screenings for potential immigrants, screenings that are not being done now. Proving his point, he says, are the 9/11 hijackers. Originally, they all came here legally. They then overstayed their visas and attacked our country.

Additionally, he adds, it's not only our security that we need to worry about; it's the sheer number of potential immigrants and our ability to incorporate them into American society. We need to look at the cost of the services we provide them versus the benefit that they create for our country. It's not inconceivable, he says, that if we openly welcome all immigrants that a "billion people may want to come here." These considerations mean that we have to have limits placed on whom we let into the country and how many we let into the country.

"It's easy to say 'let's let everyone in,' but we don't have the services to support everyone. People forget that even Ellis Island had all types of screenings." Immigration is a "double-edged sword. No matter which way you cut it, someone is going to get hurt. In this country, we need to come up with a set of rules that allows immigration, but that also makes sure that we don't harm this country. Make it so the melting pot works."

Tan Nguyen

Tan Nguyen, born in Vietnam in 1973, had a start-and-stop journey to the United States. After the United States exited Vietnam and Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese communists, Vietnam became, as Tan put it, a country "not in a condition for a kid to grow up in." Citizens were regularly sent to reeducation camps; people were controlled through threats and fear. His own family had several threatening visits by government representatives at 2:00 to 3:00 in the morning. His father decided to take the family and leave the country, but authorities caught the family making their first escape attempt in 1979 and threw his father in prison. In 1981, the family made a second escape attempt and succeeded. They went out through the north of the country and went to a refugee camp in Hong Kong, where they waited until 1982 for an organization or church in the United States to sponsor them and bring them to America.

He loves America. He believes that it is the only country on Earth where any kid can grow up to be anything. He was a stockbroker, but he is now running for Congress in the 47th district in Orange County, California. Immigration is a main focus in his campaign.

Mr. Nguyen sees the damage caused by our present immigration policy--when citizens go to emergency rooms, they have to wait for hours to get treatment behind uninsured illegal immigrants. And he sees the imminent danger of our immigration policy--terrorists have virtually unrestricted access to our country.

He says that even though America is a land of immigrants, the present mass immigration is un-American: it is unfair to people in countries other than illegals from Central America who wait for years to come to the United States legally; it is about handouts, instead of getting a hand; it "makes a mockery of our legal system"; it is causing Americans to suffer by taking away employment opportunities (he says that recent studies show 15 to 20 percent unemployment in many areas of the service industry). What it comes down to, he says, is that "we can't afford the influx." We need to determine how many immigrants our economy "needs" and then create a process that "fairly" allots citizenship.

Lastly, he believes in the importance of people working to achieve both citizenship and the American dream. "If people work hard to get here, they will work to contribute to our nation because they will value what they obtain."
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Title Annotation:IMMIGRATION; Ezola Foster, Krzysztof L. Nowak, Sr., Tan Nguyen
Author:Williamsen, Kurt
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 23, 2006
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