Like many complex political issues, discussion on immigration reform is usually oversimplified. On the right they use the imprecise term “amnesty” to describe it. On the left the Republicans are turned into hispanic-hating racists who want all latinos thrown out of the country. The term “immigrants” is used to describe both illegal and legal immigrants, as if there is not difference between the two.
These polarizing, damaging arguments prevent our country from moving forward. We should demand that our political leaders take a firm position on this, as both our current and previous president did. When a Republican says “no amnesty”, we should ask them, “OK, then what would you like to do?” I’ve found you will usually only get a partial answer, and that would be “seal the border”. But that answer is incomplete! What about the estimated 15 million illegal immigrants here now? Do you want them rounded up, arrested/detained and sent home? What about their children? Them too? And if you do support this approach, how exactly do you propose we do it? How do we round up 15 million people in our free, melting pot of a country?
And for those on the left, it is unhelpful at best to depict the Republicans as anti-latino, and to blend the plight of illegals with that of legals. We have seen this done particularly in Arizona and it is incendiary and false.
President Bush failed to pass immigration reform primarily because of members of his own party in Congress. This failure 5 years ago has only made the problem worse, and caused it to fester, and based on the reaction of politicians to President Obama’s recent speeches on immigration reform, a solution will not be implemented in the near future. (It is worth noting that the Obama and Bush plans are very, very similar). As an aside, the Democrats also shut down President Bush’s efforts to reform Social Security, offering no solutions in return. The cost of that purely political effort by the Democrats will become very clear to all of us in the future, and it will be devastating.
The solution to immigration reform– the only practical solution– is to strengthen our border security dramatically, and to give illegal aliens who haven’t committed crimes a path to citizenship. A 12 year path, during which time they must pay a fine, taxes, and be crime-free, is not simply “amnesty”. You can argue that we must do this because it’s the most humane thing to do, or because it is the only practical thing to do, or both. But if anyone proposes any other option that is significantly different than the “path to citizenship” approach, start asking them questions and watch as their argument falls to pieces.