The uproar obscures the issues

Cameron Smyth Commentary, Right Here Right Now

In recent weeks, Santa Clarita has been the focus of national news stories over the comments of City Councilman Bob Kellar. I have known Kellar for more than a dozen years and spent six years serving with him on the Santa Clarita City Council.

While I think he could have chosen his words differently, I believe the mainstream media took his words out of context. In fact, many Californians have expressed their appreciation for Kellar bringing attention to the immigration issue.

It may not have been the most tactful way to begin a conversation, but the impact of illegal immigration on our state and our community cannot be ignored.

It’s unfortunate that some have tried to focus on Kellar’s words rather than the context and the actual issue at hand, which is that the federal government has completely failed in its constitutional obligation to protect our borders.

Instead, states, counties, and cities are charged with shouldering additional financial burdens.

As California and our nation continue to face an economic crisis unmatched in most of our lifetimes, it is critical that elected officials make tough choices to provide the most basic and necessary functions of our government.

Here in California, the Democrat-controlled Legislature has done all it can to tax, overregulate and harass our business community right into the arms of competing states, or worse, into non-existence.

As a result, California is facing another $20 billion deficit as we head into the 2010-11 fiscal year on top of the $40 billion shortfall in 2009-10. In light of these staggering figures, it is important to look at what has contributed to our fiscal crisis.

As much as the majority in the Legislature is unwilling to acknowledge, it is an inescapable fact the services provided to those who are in this country illegally are costing California taxpayers nearly $11 billion every year, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

This includes $1 billion in costs to Los Angeles County taxpayers, as stated by our own county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.

As a member of the Santa Clarita City Council, I introduced (with the full support of the council) a measure requiring any city contractor to verify that all of their employees have the legal ability to work in this country.

Too often, legitimate businesses are being undercut by those who use day laborers, and the council felt we should not reward unethical business practices with taxpayer dollars.

Unfortunately, the majority of my colleagues in Sacramento don’t feel the same way. During my first year in the Legislature I introduced a similar measure for businesses contracting with the state that failed to get out of its first committee.

They chose instead to ignore a growing problem. According to FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform, we have 20,000 illegal immigrants in our overcrowded prison system. Our public health system is spending more than $1.1 billion dollars a year for health care to illegal immigrants.

There is also the other side of the coin, the immigrants themselves who fall prey to “coyote” human traffickers and suffer inhumane conditions and exploitative work environments.

Since being elected to the Assembly, I have worked to bring light to the plight of human trafficking. We cannot do this issue justice unless we make our borders more secure and take human smuggling out of the tunnels and ship containers.

It is time we move away from the rhetoric that has enveloped Santa Clarita over the last few weeks and get back to the real issue at hand – the development of a fair, just and secure solution to the immigration problem.

Focusing frustration on the words of one council member is a disservice to all impacted by illegal immigration.

Originally posted here