For weeks, and in fact months, solving the various immigration issues has been at the forefront of the news and the federal legislative agenda. Last month George Will had a column in the Morning News outlining his opinion about how hard it is to choose the criteria of who should be allowed to LEGALLY immigrate into the United States.

Will went on to detail well over 100 years of a few of the examples of how our government has sought to establish reasonable criteria. He further highlighted some of the flaws in the various criteria our lawmakers have chosen. Will quotes Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and a number of noted scholars in his article to help support his opinion of how almost impossible the task is. He even uses Greek mythology to help explain his point of the “Sisyphean Task” the lawmakers face. While he might be correct, he has avoided the crux of the issue. Any law or set of rules developed must be ones that will be enforced. In the recent past, we have not done a good job of living by the rules and laws established.

First, let me explain that both of my father’s parents were LEGAL immigrants in the late 1890s and early 1900s. I am not sure what all of the rules were at those times when they immigrated, but I am confident they followed the rules that existed. They met each other, and the rest is our family history. All four of my wife’s grandparents also legally immigrated during the same time period and later met and married. Once again, all is now family history.

Moving forward, the various criteria for legal immigration have changed many times. I am sure failures of the system have occurred and some have led to disastrous results. Without a doubt, the worst of these in recent history occurred in the 1990s when government officials failed to follow the rules and, in retrospect, issued visas to 19 terrorists. The failures to follow the laws and rules are in fact a bigger problem then what the criteria is.

Currently, our Congress and the president are trying to determine the criteria for solving the problem of the “dreamers,” while at the same time securing our borders. Putting up a stop sign at our borders that is not enforced is not the answer. Securing our borders is the responsibility of all citizens, and there can be no sanctuary for those who violate the law. Unless we as a nation are willing to follow our laws and insist the government we elect enforce the rules, we are doomed to failure.

There are scores of examples highlighting the results of those failures. Recently, an ILLEGAL immigrant in Michigan was deported for the seventh time. I can understand multiple deportations, but seven seems to highlight a systemic failure in the system. What is the punishment that is appropriate for repeat offenders that cause them not to repeat? Obviously, the current punishment is not working in this case. Just as important in this case is who are the enablers, and what price do they pay when aiding the offender?

Employers have a responsibility to check an individual’s immigrations status using E-verify. Are they checking? If not, who is at fault, and who do we hold responsible? One of the rules I was taught in the Army was the commander/leader was responsible for what all of his people did or failed to do. So if General Motors, TruGreen, Clark Builders or AT&T fail to check an individual’s status, do we hold the president and board of directors responsible? Should the political leader of a sanctuary state or city be held personally responsible if the state or city employs an illegal immigrant because they have failed to e-verify?

The “dreamers” are individuals who were brought here by their parents illegally as children. The only home they have known is the United States. How do we do right for these children who did as they were told by their parents and establish fair criteria that allow them to move on and succeed in life? What are the rules we will establish and abide by in their case?

Congress has a responsibility to fix both the problems. So far, Congress has conveniently ignored the failures of the 1990s that led to the death of almost 3,000 people who also had dreams. Many current members of Congress were in office then. So to those members, what have you done to see that the laws and rules legally established are followed and enforced?

Otherwise, the laws enacted are just like the stop signs and speed limit signs — meaningless unless enforced!

Citizen Columnist Thomas J. Sheehy is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army and a retired businessman. He’s been married 43 years, has two sons and four grandchildren, whom he and his wife followed to Florence several years ago. Contact Sheehy at

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