No one who keeps up with national events will really be surprised to see two of our elected officials -- Asheville City Council member Carl Mumpower and U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor -- joining other politicians who are grabbing headlines with their anti-immigrant proposals.
Perhaps Mumpower needs to be reminded that a federal law already exists which penalizes employers who knowingly hire workers lacking the proper documentation. With all of the important issues that Asheville needs to address, Mumpower should not be wasting Council's time and resources on something that's already being addressed at the national level. And as a mental-health professional, he should understand that his proposal creates undue stress in a community whose members have come here to work and enhance the quality of life -- both for their own families and for ours.
Why doesn't Mumpower lobby Taylor to work on more funding for woefully underfunded immigration/naturalization services? People have been waiting in backlogged lines for more than three years to gain citizenship, more than five years to obtain permanent work visas, and more than 10 years to bring eligible family members to the U.S.
Taylor's latest public statements about making police and other local law-enforcement agents serve as immigration police are absurd. Similar legislation proposed in other communities has only left them feeling less secure. Locally, the Asheville Police Department is holding community meetings -- including in Latino communities -- to build bridges and create more community policing. Don't our law-enforcement agencies already have enough on their plates trying to fight the crime in our communities? If Taylor's legislation were approved, much of the progress made by local law enforcement would be unraveled.
And who's going to pay for these increased law-enforcement services? Where will the funds come from to pay for additional training and staff hours? Is Taylor proposing federal funding for these services? The last thing we need is another "No Child Left Behind" type initiative, where we get all the requirements without full funding -- and without the results we were promised.
Before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, workers moved across the border more freely -- both legally and illegally. We do need stricter borders, but with today's tighter security, migration patterns have changed dramatically. Foreign workers are not returning to their native countries, because they want to keep living and working in the United States. That has created a whole new reality here in North Carolina: Our state's economy would collapse without our immigrant work force. North Carolina needs the workers.
In a perfect world, the workers we need would be those who were born within our borders or who come here legally. But this is not a perfect world, and that's why Mumpower and Taylor should be working with local communities and with Congress to support legislation and programs providing stronger national security and stages of earned legalization. Sadly, however, Mumpower's and Taylor's proposals are only creating more fear and anger in our communities.
[Public-relations and political consultant Edna Campos is also active as a community volunteer.]