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6th District hopefuls battle over immigration
By James Fuller | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 1/30/2008 12:28 AM

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Last in a series on the issues facing 6th Congressional District Democratic candidates Jill Morgenthaler and Stan Jagla in the Feb. 5 primary

The Democratic candidates in the 6th Congressional District agree something must be done to address the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States.

That may be where most of the similarities in their perspectives ends.

Democrats Jill Morgenthaler and Stan Jagla don't even agree on the nature or severity of the problem.

Morgenthaler submitted written answers to a questionnaire that included one immigration question. Her campaign declined repeated requests for an interview about the issue.

Jagla's responses are based on a full interview.

The problem

Morgenthaler said illegal immigration is a direct threat to national security and the safety of U.S. citizens.

"Our borders are porous -- both north and south -- and that means there are real threats to our safety," Morgenthaler wrote. "We don't know who's coming in or where they are going. That's got to stop."

Jagla said illegal immigration is proof of the failure of free trade agreements, including NAFTA, and has only become a big issue because of a declining economy.

"The immigrants are good for a growing economy," Jagla said. "They are very bad for a declining economy. So when you have a declining economy, all of a sudden, it's, 'Get the heck out of here.' "

NAFTA caused high-wage jobs to leave the country while increasing the demand for cheap labor, Jagla said.

Jagla said he doesn't believe the United States has a firm grasp on the number of illegal immigrants, why they're coming here or how they're getting into the country.

"If you know those things, then you can stop it," Jagla said.

The solutions

Both candidates say sealing the borders is a top priority to solving the problem.

Jagla doesn't have an answer for the best way to do that, but he's against building "a wall to no where."

Morgenthaler had more concrete ideas.

"We need to look at all our options -- hiring more border patrol agents and giving them the tools they need, like high-tech surveillance equipment and electronic fencing," she wrote.

Both candidates agree employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants should at least be fined.

Jagla said if there are no jobs for illegal immigrants, they will leave the country on their own.

So besides punishing employers who hire illegal immigrants, Jagla said, companies must increase wages for the jobs they say only illegal immigrants will do. He said higher wages will result in only minimal price increases for consumers.

Amnesty?

Neither candidate said amnesty is the answer for illegal immigrants who are already here.

Morgenthaler and Jagla haven't pushed full plans for what to do with illegal immigrants who choose to stay.

Jagla said an appropriate path to citizenship would involve having immigrants join the military.

"They could serve four years and get a green card," Jagla said. "It's good for our country, and we can get the personnel for the military that we need."

Jagla said learning English shouldn't be a requirement for citizenship.

"Forced learning of English is another form of a hate crime," Jagla said.

"When I came into the United States, I wanted to learn English because you learn English or you're left out," he added. "Keep teaching English in schools and everybody will know it."