Immigrants and Citizenship: Fast-Track or Crackdown?

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Knoxville (WVLT) - If you can't show proof that your Social Security Number is, indeed yours your bosses have to fire you, or face fines themselves.

Volunteer TV’s Gordon Boyd has more on Homeland Security's latest push to deal with the flood of what some call undocumented workers, and others call illegal immigrants.

Coincidentally or not, this crackdown comes the same day a number of folks are taking the oath as new citizens.

What many of us may know by rote, or take for granted, “to be finally an American,” says Frank Keller, an emigrant from Liberia.

For 92 men and women, hailing from 34 countries.

“I can really think about the things I wanted to do when I was in my country,” says Sophia Rengifo, an emigrant from Peru.

“It is a long and arduous process, but America remains the beacon of light,” says US Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe.

“I decided when the time was right, when I felt more American than English, I would apply for my citizenship,” explains Kim Holder.

“Fourteen years of civil war, in my country. I was in a refugee camp for like 5 years before I migrated to the US,” Keller says.

And now, having played by all the rules:

“It took, uh five years, my Daddy was a citizen first,” says Sophia.

“I have to be fingerprinted in one place, I had to go to Nashville, interviewed in Memphis,” Kim says.

They can call themselves citizens, Homeland Security's bullseye is elsewhere.

“The magnet that brings most economic migrants into this country is work. If we have worksite enforcement directed at illegal employment we strike at that magnet,” explains Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security Secretary.

Raise the fines for hiring illegals, he says, you shrink the demand and therefore the supply of illegals.

“It's gonna have unintended consequences,” East Tennessee Activist Lisa Barba sees the target as Hispanics and claims a crackdown not only will cost legal immigrants work, simply on suspicion. “They're separating families, they're taking employees away from employees who really need them.”

Census figures show East Tennessee's Hispanic population has roughly quadrupled the past 16 years, more than doubled in the past 8.

The Feds can't tell us how many of those they define as illegal, or guess how many more, they haven't counted.

But Barba says she can guarantee they won't go away. “They're gonna start looking into jobs that are cash accounts, cash jobs, under the table jobs.”

Barba wonders whether the real push is to get Congress to fast-track citizenship. But she understands why.

For these new Americans, “You feel like you belong, and that's it, now, here to stay,” Kim says.

There's the largest practical challenge. How, if you tried, do you send home all the undocumented or illegals already here?

Activists claim those working on forged documents nevertheless pay more than four billion dollars a year in social security, income and Medicare taxes. Not to mention the wages they push into the economy.

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