- The Washington Times - Friday, July 5, 2002

Immigration has been good for America. Immigrants throughout our history have embraced the freedoms and opportunities we enjoy in the United States and produced untold economic, scientific and artistic contributions.
We are all immigrants some more generationally distant from the lands of our forebears than others. Historically, immigrants have tended to come in ethnic waves from Ireland, Italy and Germany. Today, it is from Mexico, Central and South America.
Three years from now, Hispanic Americans are projected to become the largest minority group in the United States. They are the fastest growing part of our population.
Given these demographic facts, political parties have taken notice.
Some already have a game plan. In both parties, there are those who favor an appeal to Hispanics as Hispanics. On policy issues, these individuals support bilingualism, favor mass immigration and promote government benefits.
This approach runs counter to a united America seeking freedom and economic opportunity for all.
And that is where I think the Republican Party should make its stand. Reject the temptation to play ethnic politics. Don't try to out-promise the Democrats. Focus on delivering the American dream.
Republicans believe in creating prosperity for all, not redistributing others' income. The key is not to covet someone else's slice of the economic pie but rather to enlarge the pie so each can have a bigger slice.
Republicans should appeal to Hispanic Americans as Americans, not as an ethnic group. Appeal to their highest ideals and aspirations. Seize the moral high ground by committing ourselves to work with Hispanic Americans to help them realize their and our American dream.
To do this we must take the offensive.
We start by building upon our common interests. Hispanic Americans favor many policies championed by Republicans.
It is in every American's interest to provide our schoolchildren with a good education. The federal government has spent billions of dollars on education, yet countless children remain trapped in failed school systems.
Republicans favor school choice, local control and character education because we want children to learn. The Hispanic American community does, too. For example, polling data consistently reveals that Hispanic American support for school choice programs remains in the 70-percent range.
And students should study English, because it's the language of the marketplace. In America, to communicate effectively one must speak and read English.
We believe in Social Security reform. For Hispanic Americans, this is a priority. Nine percent of all couples age 65 and older rely on Social Security for all of their income. For Hispanic American couples, the figure is 23 percent.
Republicans believe Social Security reform must include a personal investment option. A majority of Hispanic Americans in poll after poll show support for such retirement accounts.
All immigrants, as well as native-born Americans, are stakeholders with a vested interest in the future of our country. We need them to help build a stronger, more united America. Assimilation doesn't mean immigrants leave their culture behind; it means they embrace America as their own.
Honest work is honorable work. A job is better than welfare. Hard-working Americans have earned the right to keep their wages and put their families first. Government taxes and interference should be kept to a minimum.
Respecting Hispanic Americans as Americans, not pandering to them as an ethnic group, will forge a stronger America. And that is what we all want.

Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, is a member and former chairman of the House Immigration Subcommittee.


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