Phil Harriman (left) and Ethan Strimling, BDN Agree to Disagree bloggers. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

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Ethan: Have you taken a look at President Joe Biden’s immigration plan? It’s a solid combination of former President George W. Bush’s plan, with current progressive seeking to move trapped residents out of the shadows and to make it easier for families to jump through the legal hoops.

Phil: Yup, I’m following Biden’s agenda. Did you know that 35 years ago President Ronald Reagan signed an immigration reform bill that granted amnesty to 3 million people who entered the country, while also including a crackdown on border security. How’s that working for America today?

Ethan: Are you criticizing the Republican no Republican may ever criticize?

Phil: We are paid to tell it like it is and honestly, even though Americans of all stripes want better border security, immigration is one issue Republican and Democratic presidents alike have failed to resolve.

Ethan: Perhaps, but it was Republican senators and Republican representatives who blocked Bush and former President Barack Obama from living up to our country’s ideals.

Phil: That’s why this issue is so divisive. One side sees only lawbreakers, the other wants a world without borders.

Ethan: Only the most extreme see the issue that way. Most of us see it as our founders laid out — we are a country built by immigrants that should do all we can to welcome the next generation who will make our country even greater.

Phil: Perhaps, but we are also a sovereign country with borders. Otherwise, declare the UN General Assembly as the supreme ruler and do away with citizenship and passports. For me, borders matter. They distinguish the diverse humanity of our world and enable visitors to experience that uniqueness.

Ethan: Not a fan of the melting pot? You may be living in the wrong country, my friend. Your vision sounds more like homogenous China than what our country has achieved.

Phil: I was visiting friends in Siena, Italy, last week and immirgration was a dinner conversation. My friends wanted me to know what it takes to become an Italian. In no particular order: Prove you are not a criminal; have your accountant prove you are not going to become dependent on the state; prove you have at least 12,000 Euros in the bank (about $14,000); have your birth certificate translated into Italian; learn the basic language. Why shouldn’t we expect similar qualifications to become an American?

Ethan: I guess you aren’t a fan of the inscription: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” 

Phil: None of that means we can’t have both a defined border with rule of law and a welcoming society where anyone can become an American. Commit to understanding our language, the role of government, our economic system and be able to assimilate through your family, church or humanitarian organization.

Ethan: All of that is already in place. And since the majority of immigrants are better educated than most Mainers, the issue is simply whether we want to make it easier or harder for families to join us, especially those families who must flee countries where they are oppressed.

Phil: I admire your charitable heart, I do, yet there are millions around the world who are oppressed who can’t get here because of an ocean, rather than a river, tunnel or vehicle. Why are they denied?

Ethan: They aren’t. Nor should they be. That’s the point.