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IMMIGRANTS CAN BE BOON TO U.S. IF ASSIMILATION IS HANDLED PROPERLY

SHARE IMMIGRANTS CAN BE BOON TO U.S. IF ASSIMILATION IS HANDLED PROPERLY

QUESTION: Anti-immigrant sentiment seems to be mounting in this country, with increased cries in Congress for reform. Is this apparent national desire to spurn the "huddled masses" a result of our weak economy, a scarcity of resources to care for new immigrants, or something else?

BETSY HART: After applauding their intentions for a better life, just what do we do with the immigrants headed for the United States? The answer is to recognize that in general they can be entrepreneurial, hard-working resources - not burdens - for America if their assimilation is handled in the right way.Historically most immigrants, legal or illegal, have not become a burden to America. Generally legal immigrants are not allowed to partake of federal welfare programs and other services, and most illegals are too scared of being found out to sign up for such benefits. Unfortunately, some states are changing those rules.

A state's welfare benefits will often determine whether immigrants become resources or burdens. Consider this: Immigrants classified as refugees, about 15 percent of all immigrants entering America each year, are temporarily eligible for federal welfare benefits as administered by the states. Of those who end up in California, a "generous" welfare state, 80 percent of such immigrants are on welfare. In Texas, a "stingy" welfare state, the number is 25 percent.

Clearly, the insane trend of providing welfare and medical benefits to immigrants must stop. This will ensure that only those willing to pull their own weight in America make it to our shores.

BONNIE ERBE: Myth No. 1: Illegal immigration is ballooning. According to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, more than a million people entered this country - legally and illegally - last year. But immigration experts will tell you the real figure is probably closer to half a million people, because many of those illegals were repeat offenders who were captured and sent back to their homelands and re-entered illegally.

Myth No. 2: America has, until recently, always welcomed waves of immigrants. NOT! In fact, massive migrations traditionally have been met with fear, suspicion and discrimination.

Myth No. 3: Immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans who need them more. In fact, many immigrants, and almost all illegals, subsist in minimum or sub-minimum wage jobs (janitors, in the case of men; nannies in the case of women) that Americans refuse to accept.

In one sense, I agree with my colleague. We cannot afford to continue to allow people to enter this country illegally and allow them to enjoy taxpayer-funded benefits if they're not contributing themselves. But by the same token, Americans should be honest about why it feels as if anti-immigration sentiment is at an all-time high. It is because recent immigrants are overwhelmingly Asian, Middle Eastern and Central American. They don't "look" like us. And much as we try to deny it, racism remains high.