Paul Greenberg

I didn't much like the immigration bill that just stalled in the U.S. Senate. In fact, I disliked it. Intensely. And I was for it. You can imagine how the folks who were against it felt about the bill.

You may not have been crazy about it, either, if for reasons different and even opposite from mine. It was the kind of bill that's advertised as a Grand Bargain, by which is meant another shoddy compromise that has something to offend everybody. My own list of objections was starting to get as long and involved as the bill itself. To name just a couple of the big ones:

-The bill was mercenary, not family-friendly. It replaced family connections as a basis for gaining entrance to the United States with a point system weighted heavily in favor of those who came bringing skills that the economy needs. Or rather that the government says the economy needs. Those needs wouldn't be determined by private companies or individual employers but mainly by statisticians in Washington.

Socio-economic class would trump family values. That's no way to build a country, or at least it's not the way this one was built. And I kind of like the way this one turned out.

-The bill would have instituted a point system that Rube Goldberg could have devised, giving different weights to different qualifications. There would be points for English proficiency, experience living here, a solid job offer from an American employer, and higher levels of education - especially in math, science and technology. Your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free? Who needs 'em? They'd be elbowed aside by software engineers, credentialed professionals and assorted technicians.

We're all products of our own experience, and the first thing I thought when reading an outline of this voluminous monstrosity was: Ma would never have made the cut.

Yes, my mother was young and strong. But she had no formal schooling, none at all. She was, as we liked to say in the family, illiterate in five languages. That's what growing up on a battlefield of the First World War, Eastern Front, will give you: a true European education. Her major was suffering.

What she wanted most in life, desperately wanted, and would have overcome all obstacles to achieve, and just about did, was to be Š an American. She wanted work, safety, respect, a home, a family, a chance. She knew who she was, and hated where she was - Europe, a word she pronounced to her dying day with a bitterness you could hear and feel and taste at 10 paces.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.