By Dennis “DJ” Mikolay
Modern politicians rarely take a stand on truly controversial issues. In a political system motivated almost entirely by the desire to be re-elected, United States legislators and executive officials rarely address taboo issues nor contradict their party’s desires. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the political establishment rarely addresses matters related to illegal immigration, which is likely the single most divisive topic in contemporary politics.
Unfortunately for the career politicians, Richard “Dick” Lamm has never obeyed the political elite. The former governor of Colorado and one-time presidential contender has never been a stranger to controversy. While in office, he earned the reputation as an individual who answered only to his conscience, shunning the party bosses that often control elected officials. Such an attitude made him popular with voters—he served for an impressive twelve years—but didn’t make him a favorite among the political leadership.
But that didn’t deter Lamm from taking strong stances on controversial matters. During his youth he was actively involved in the Civil Rights struggle, which was at the time a hot button issue. Later, as a member of the Colorado Legislature, he championed women’s rights and eventually drafted what was at that time the country’s most liberalized abortion bill. He also spent a good portion of his career trying to promote Holocaust awareness, and was later honored by the Anti-Defamation League for his work with the “Governor’s Holocaust Remembrance Program.”
After such an illustrious career, Lamm was assured a place in history books; he very well could have hung up the political towel and retired from public life. But the former governor recognized a new threat to America’s security and economic prosperity: illegal immigration.
After outlining the danger of illegal immigration in an infamous 2004 speech titled “I Have a Plan to Destroy America,” Lamm was once again rendered a controversial figure. His calls for immigration reform rocked the political establishment, drawing praise from some and condemnation from others.
While in the wake of the internet Lamm’s message has reached a wider audience, his disdain for current immigration problems is nothing new.
“The first time I came across this issue was as g overnor,” said Lamm. “A group of workers from a local packing plant came in because they had been fired and replaced by illegal immigrants who were willing to work for less—I was outraged by this!”
Lamm called the owner of the factory. He was less than enthusiastic to hear from the governor. Before long, Lamm came to the frightening realization that “there are a lot of American businesses addicted to cheap labor.” With the increasing demand for affordable workers, and a general willingness to pay these individuals under the table, many business-owners cringe at the thought of stricter immigration laws. It is these anti-reform groups that flood the political arena with money, hoping to stifle any proposed immigration reforms.
“There is a coalition of pro-immigration groups,” said Lamm. “The big players would be big business and the unions that are trying to organize occupations with high numbers of illegal workers. There is incredible money going in on the part of these various foundations.”
Lamm’s critics have labeled him as xenophobic, an accusation the governor vehemently denies:
“Legal immigration has been good for America,” said Lamm. “The success of Silicon Valley shows we need entrepreneurial immigrants with skills to bring to our country!”
It is the illegal immigrants, those who adversely affect the American economy, with whom Lamm takes issue. One must remember that, in addition to the economic impact of undocumented aliens, national security is also compromised by the massive flow across the border. While the majority of those who cross the border are likely only seeking jobs, there is always the potential for less desirable characters to relocate into the United States.
As the House Committee on Homeland Security noted: “law enforcement officials indicate that there are individuals coming across the border who are forced to leave their home countries because of their criminal activity….”
Such a threat makes the need for reform even more pertinent.
The common misconception is that Lamm, and those who call for immigration reform, are somehow “anti-immigrant.” The former governor dismisses this theory, as he does not call for a complete closure of the border, but rather a more stringent entrance process.
“It is like a diet,” said Lamm. “A diet isn’t anti-food; it just balances what types of food and how much. Immigration should be the same way.”