Deconstructing the immigration debate
By Charles Bloomer
Politicians have become adept at "bundling", the practice of lumping several semi-related issues into an argument and giving it a high-sounding name. (The Transportation Bill comes to mind. It had a little to do with transportation and contained thousands of earmarks that had nothing to do with transportation.) Now our illustrious representatives in Congress have again tried to push our emotional buttons by mixing together three (at least) subjects, of which only a part is really immigration.
In terms of major topics, the current immigration debate encompasses three of interest – border security, immigration laws, and the presence of illegal immigrants. The bundling of these three topics is a guarantee that no matter what is proposed as a solution, the solution will fail. There can be no consensus if a proposed solution evokes emotional, as opposed to rational, responses.
Politicians in Congress, fearful of voter backlash, do not want to address the real issues. As long as they can point to the issue with which they disagree, they can shrug their shoulders and assure constituents that they have done all they can. They can use their position on any one of the issues to beef up their campaign platforms, appear to be working in the best interest of the people, all the while pointing the finger of failure at someone else.
I know it will sound cynical, but politicians would rather stay in power than do the right thing. This applies to nearly any member of any party. This basic concept explains the lack of progress on the three major topics in the immigration debate in this election year. Politicians want to appeal to the most voters, while minimizing alienation. Consequently, we see more nuanced, fuzzier positions masquerading as dynamic leadership ideas. Politicians want to get re-elected, so we see more of the pandering to the special interest groups that send money. Being in office is the lifeblood of the oversized egos that crave the attention and perks of elected office.
Newt Gingrich said, "I think sometimes incumbents forget that we're sent here to reform Washington. We're not sent here to be co-opted by Washington." Too many of our elected representatives, elected to take care of the good of the country, have been co-opted by the system.
The solution to the bundling problem is simple and within the power of the Congressional leadership to implement. Take the current "immigration" debate and separate it into its component parts. Senator Frist and Speaker Hastert can, in their respective chambers, define the debates and, as party leaders, direct the legislation introduced be simplified.
First, we as Americans should debate the national security problem that currently exists as a result of our porous borders. Taunts of racism or xenophobia can and should be quickly slapped down by insisting that our entire border must be strengthened, not just our border with Mexico. Tightening our borders means strengthening our physical borders, both North and South, plus the virtual borders along our coast, at airports, and every potential point of entry. Strengthening our borders is not a punishment for innocents who come here to work. It is a necessity for our physical safety. A border so porous that thousands of non-threatening workers can sneak through is a border so insecure that will allow entry to those who seek to do us harm. It makes no sense to be fighting our enemies six thousand miles away while we allow the conditions to exist that enables enemies to sneak into the country.
Any solution will be expensive, but protecting the lives of Americans requires us to at least have an intelligent debate and take positive action.
Second, a serious debate needs to address our onerous, bureaucratic immigration laws. There is no legitimate reason that qualified, productive people should have to wait years before getting permission to emigrate to the United States. Nor is there any intelligent reason for the time and expenses incurred when a legitimate spouse of an American citizen wants to enter the country. Our immigration laws have degenerated over the years to the point now that they make as much sense as our tax law, and only benefit lawyers who make those laws their specialty. A debate focused on fixing the inequities of our current system would do much to resolve the third problem in the "immigration" debate.
Finding a solution to the problem of the 12 million people who are currently in our country illegally will be the most difficult. All the more reason to separate it from the other two topics. Only by addressing the problem and investigating possible solutions that are fair and humane will we ever find an answer. Right now the debate is more of a shouting match than serious discussion. Again, there are no easy answers. But no answer will develop until we direct specific energy at this specific issue.
Making illegal immigrants felons will do nothing toward solving the problem. That solution should be a non-starter. A more rational answer would be to simplify the immigration procedures so that those people can go home and quickly move through the process. Shorten the wait time, shorten the line of those waiting and the otherwise illegals will be more likely to follow the rules.
Immigration to our country can be a positive influence on our economy and to our quality of life, while improving the living conditions of those who emigrate here. We just need to get across to our politicians that our national security must come first. Once we establish improved border control – effective border control that keeps the enemy out – we can work on the other issues. Trying to bundle these issues will only lead to failure.
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