Immigration has been the hot topic as of late and it was no different on Sunday’s edition of "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer. In the second segment of the program, Schieffer interviewed "New York Times" David Brooks. Schieffer introduced Brooks as a "proud conservative," and while Brooks may be conservative for "The New York Times"staff, to many conservatives he is reminiscent of John McCain in that he will be critical of conservatives to open doors to liberal media outlets.
Brooks railed against conservative Republicans who want a tough immigration bill accusing them of an unwillingness to "talk reasonably." To back up his point, Brooks points to comments apparently made by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA):
David Brooks: "I was up at a press conference this week where a House Republican said, `You know, we've got to have some people to pick lettuce in this country, so we're not going to have immigrants. Let's make the prisoners do it.’ You want to hit the guy on the head with a baseball bat. We're going to take a largely minority population, forced labor, picking lettuce and cotton. Is this ringing any bells here?"
However, the March 31, 2006 edition of the "New York Times" puts Mr. Rohrabacher’s comments into some context.
Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, dismissed arguments made by President Bush and business leaders who say the United States needs a pool of foreign workers. He said businesses should be more creative in their efforts to find help and suggested that employers turn to the prison population to fill jobs in agriculture and elsewhere.
"Let the prisoners pick the fruits," Mr. Rohrabacher said. "We can do it without bringing in millions of foreigners."
The phrasing was dopy, but Congressman Rohrabacher suggested an idea, and whether it’s a good one should be a matter for debate. Could allowing prisoners to work jobs have some benefit on society? Possibly. It would provide prisoners with some job skills, and punishing crime with labor could offer further deterrence to crime. It could also have potential negatives and meet Constitutional pitfalls. But again, it’s a matter that ought to be debated not summarily dismissed.
But, if you disagree with Mr. Brooks, I suppose you refuse to "talk reasonably" on the issue. But, why is it so unreasonable to enforce our borders? Why is it unreasonable to state that illegal presence in the United States should be regarded as a serious criminal offense with serious consequences? It is true, the authorities will never be able to catch everyone illegally in America, but the issue is deterring others from illegally entering, not detaining everyone illegally here.