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WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Population milestone no cause to celebrate

Nobody is celebrating the population milestone supposedly reached in the U.S. on Tuesday morning because the illegal immigration issue is too volatile.

The nation officially acknowledged reaching the 300 million mark; however, experts say the number probably popped up months ago.

Demographers also say that the 300 millionth American was most likely a Hispanic who walked across the border from Mexico. With national elections less than three weeks away, the milestone couldn't have come at a worse time for incumbents who refuse to deal realistically with the problem of illegal immigration.

Unlike in 1967, when the population reached 200 million, and when the nation celebrated growing to 100 million people some time around 1915, the consequences of allowing unchecked immigration sharply divide Americans.

Is the current policy one that imports poverty or does it sustain growth with lower wage scales and a ready workforce?

Is the flood of workers who are willing to take unattractive jobs making life easier for the rest of us? Or does it represent a larger profit margin for employers? Are these people turning the U.S. into a two-language nation?

About 40 percent of U.S. growth comes from immigration of people who are likely to be in the country illegally.

A growing U.S. has always wrestled with the immigration problem. The nation historically handles the problem by expanding and adjusting and making room.

Yet what most Americans resent about the open immigration policy is the hypocrisy with which the president and Congress treat the problem. So, the best way Washington finds to handle the milestone is to ignore it. That's easier than explaining why the government won't enforce the nation's immigration laws, or why it is building a shameful fence along the border.

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