Bill Neinast

The National Polka Festival is a celebration of Czech heritage in Ennis, Texas.  The festival has grown over 52 years to require three entertainment centers to accommodate the celebrants.

The dance halls are festooned with American and Czech flags and Czech attire predominates on attendees of all ages.  My German lederhosen and Jeannine’s German dirndl were lonely standouts. 

The festival starts Friday evening with a polka contest. Winners of the contest become the festival king and queen and represent the festival for a year.  A couple named Hernandez danced off with the title this year.

Think of it.  In a hall decked with American and Czech flags and revelers in German and Czech clothes clap a Hispanic couple to the head of the line.  That is a classic picture of this country as a melting pot where many heritages and cultures are melded into one family.

While enjoying this celebration of America, I could not forget those 12 million men, women, and children of all ages hiding in the shadows of this great nation.  The most irritating feature of this underground element is the way they are viewed by so many.

Media reports indicate that a substantial majority view the undocumented aliens mowing their lawns or roofing their homes as criminals.  If their only offense is entering the country without a visa, they are not felons.  Illegal entry is a misdemeanor, roughly equivalent to a traffic ticket for running a stop sign.

There are different classifications of illegal or undocumented aliens.  Something around 25% of that 12 million include individuals who entered the country with valid visas but remained here after their visas expired.

So what is the problem?  Many will answer that question with something like, “It’s the economy stupid!”

If the immigrants effect on the economy is the problem, we should celebrate their presence and contribution.

Just look at this economy. The GDP is growing at just under 3%, jobs were created last quarter at a record rate, the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since the 1960s and is the lowest on record for minorities.  Obviously, those 12 million illegals are a real drag on the economy.

Let’s be honest and practical.  The real objection to the illegal alien population is that they are not paying taxes.  Actually, they are paying sales and property taxes.  Even if they do not own real property, the rent they pay on their apartments is calculated by the owner to cover his expenses, including property taxes, and leave a profit.

Realistically, the only problem is that the illegal workers are not paying the social security tax and may, in the future, be able to receive support from the social security fund that is already bankrupt.

The federal government allowed this problem to grow to its current size.  The thousands of individuals streaming across our southern border have been known to everyone in the country for years.  But nothing was done to stop it or to round up and deport those violating our borders.

There is such an easy solution to this problem.  First, we have to admit that we are responsible for the problem because we sat idly by as it grew over the years.  Then admit that the “illegals” currently in the country are here legally because we have permitted them to remain here for so long.

If we can be that honest about the problem, we can then establish an easy process to give the subjects legal status, get them on the tax roles, and, eventually, to legal citizenship.

Here is a plan.  Establish a registration system under which anyone who can prove that he or she was in the country before a certain date can register and be issued a social security number and certificate starting his residency toward full citizenship.  The registrant would walk out of the office with a piece of paper similar to the one received when renewing a driver’s license to serve as the license until the new, laminated license is received.

Simultaneously, begin enforcing the law that criminalizes hiring illegal aliens.  Most of the border control agents should be recalled from the border and trained as illegal employment agents.  There should be frequent audits of businesses in which illegal employment is prevalent, to see that every employee has an authentic social security number and that federal income tax and social security tax is being properly processed.

Employing someone who does not have a valid social security number after the new system is in place should be punishable with a fine of $1,000.00 a day per illegal employee.  Regularly enforcing that penalty would stop illegal crossings of the Rio Grande faster and more permanently than a concrete wall of any size.

So heres the perspective.

Let’s get realistic.  The illegal or undocumented aliens are here to stay.  They are adding to our economy.  Let’s start collecting taxes from them instead of spending taxes on them.

And do not forget that U.S. Army soldier I mentioned here some time ago.  His name tag was that of a Hispanic.  When I asked him what he thought of the illegal population, his answer was, “My mother is undocumented.  Are you going to deport her?”

What is your answer?  Would you put that soldier on a jet for Afghanistan at the same time you are boarding his mother on another plane headed south of the border?

The time is now to accept the reality and welcome some new citizens who can add their culture to such celebrations as the National Polka Festival.



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