Unfinished business

By EDITORIAL  |  May 3, 2006

Reform immigration
Whether our families arrived on the Mayflower, fled Southeast Asia as “boat people,” or crossed the southern border stuffed in trucks, all Americans are immigrants. At the moment, this nation is home to 11 million–plus illegal immigrants. And the debate in Washington about what to do about this multitude illustrates what’s worst and best about our society. The worst impulses are personified by the right-wing Republicans who control the House of Representatives. They want to turn the illegals into felons, send them back to their nations of origin, fence off the Mexican border, and criminalize the actions of any who would help them — including medical and church workers. The more humane option — as embodied by the legislation sponsored by Republican senator John McCain of Arizona and Democratic senator Edward Kennedy — would allow illegals to stay as long as they pay a fine, learn English, and continue working. After getting in line behind those who have legally emigrated, they would be allowed to apply for citizenship as long as they have paid taxes and are not felons here or back home. We endorse the thinking of McCain and Kennedy. The thought of forcibly repatriating millions while turning their friends, families, and employers into criminals is nothing short of criminal itself, as well as a betrayal of our heritage. Still, it must be recognized that our national capacity to absorb immigrants is limited. Once these firm but fair provisions are enacted, our borders must be made more secure, and a maintainable curtain must be drawn on future illegal immigration. Compassion is noble, but not unlimited.

At the State House
The State Senate is soon expected to vote to legalize the over-the-counter sale of hypodermic needles as a medically proven way to decrease the spread of HIV and other communicable diseases. By the time you read this, we hope Massachusetts will have joined 47 other states (New Jersey and Delaware are the only other holdouts) in this commonsense approach. As of this writing, it’s thought that as many as 25 senators will support the measure. Twenty-seven votes are needed to ensure that the measure will be able to withstand a veto from Governor Mitt Romney, who might well decide that gaining conservative votes for his presidential bid is more important than saving lives.

Meanwhile, spread over 10 years, $250 million would aid tourism by assisting arts-and-culture groups, and yet it sits cocooned inside the economic stimulus bill also awaiting enactment at the State House. Proposed by House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, the measure has attracted widespread support and has a good chance of passage if only the economic-stimulus package can get out of conference committee and come up for a full vote. We urge all to contact their legislators and ask them to support both measures: clean needles and DiMasi’s arts proposals.

On the Web
Contacting your congressman: mass.gov/legis/citytown.htm

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