Participants in an immigration forum challenged the popular idea that all immigration is bad immigration.
There are two types of immigrants: legal aliens, who benefit the region, and illegal aliens, who drain resources, said experts at a symposium sponsored by the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale last week. Efforts to solve immigration problems should focus on those who slip into the United States illegally, they said.
No one suggested changes to U.S. immigration policy for legal aliens.
"Legal immigrants represent a net fiscal gain for the United States," said Anthony Bryan, director of the Caribbean program at the University of Miami's North/South Center.
U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, proposed a lengthy list of suggestions for slowing illegal immigration, including tighter control of U.S. borders, a crackdown on employers who willfully hire illegal immigrants and closer inspection of ports and airports.
The problem, Hastings said, is getting enough votes in Congress to carry out those ideas. Representatives from states that don't have major immigration problems view Florida's complaints as a local issue rather than a national or international one, he said.
Even among Florida's 23 representatives there is little cooperation, Hastings said. "I'm not hopeful we will be able to get many solutions through the House of Representatives," he said.