Monday, July 15, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Time To Mend The Wound

The issue of immigration to the United States has become
an open wound. Current attempts to fix this situation
through legislation have become stalled following the
passage of a bill in the U.S. senate. The latter was
accomplished by the political midwifery of senators of
both parties who realized that bipartisanship was the only
way to fix our troubled immigration circumstances.

Unfortunately, the issue has been obscured by campaigns
from the left and the right, and in both national political

There are currently more than ten million so-called “illegal
immigrants” in the U.S., most of whom entered and/or
remained in the country from neighboring Mexico in the
past several decades.  Although categorized as “Hispanics”
significant numbers of immigrants from Spanish-speaking
places other than Mexico came to the U.S. legally and are
now citizens. Many Mexican immigrants also came to the
U.S. legally. But many more did not.

Over the years, millions of Mexican workers came to the
U.S. as seasonal laborers, working often for lower-than-
normal pay in farms and agricultural jobs. Some of them did
not return to Mexico. Many others simply crossed the
previously porous U.S/Mexico border to escape poverty in
their home country.

Most illegal immigrants now live in a relatively few states,
although there are some in almost every state.

Tolerated for years with a wink, especially to those
agricultural and other business interests which benefitted
most from these illegals, their sheer numbers and their
plight in living with a hidden legal secret finally brought
the issue in the open. It has been complicated by the fact
that many illegals have had children and grandchildren in
the U.S.

It has been pointed out that throughout its history, the
United States has been a nation of immigrants. Even the
continent’s oldest residents, called Native Americans, were
themselves immigrants from Asia by land and boat
thousands of years ago. Immigration, in effect, is the primal
American condition.

On the other hand, no nation, especially in the current era of
international crime and terrorism, can tolerate a disorderly
system of immigration, nor large numbers of its residents
living outside the proper systems of taxation, citizen
accountability and benefits.

Most of us are agreed that the time is past due to deal with
this problem. As individuals, we would not without great
personal risk go day after day without healing an open wound.

It should not be a partisan issue. Former President George W.
Bush and former presidential candidate John McCain have
consistently supported immigration reform. But in the most
recent presidential election, only former Speaker Newt Gingrich
of the major Republican candidates supported immigration

Opponents of immigration reform contend that illegal
immigrants should be returned to the country where they
came from before being allowed to re-enter the U.S. and become
citizens. This notion, however, is practically impossible, and
so another policy is required.

Opponents also contend that no reform should be attempted
until the U.S. border with Mexico is “sealed” to prevent further
illegal immigration. In fact, no border more than 1000 miles
long by land can be perfectly “sealed.” Nevertheless, border
security can be, should be, and is being significantly improved.
Meanwhile, there needs to be a process whereby the millions of
immigrants now living illegally in the U.S. can be given a legal
status. That does not mean they should be quickly given U.S.
citizenship. The senate bill creates a process in which those who
came here illegally in the past can become citizens after 15 years.

There are also legitimate issues about whether or not illegal
immigrants, if given legal status, are entitled to the many benefits
which citizens and legal residents now receive. The senate bill
resolves many of these, but I do agree that the senate bill is too
long (more than 1000 pages, an echo of Obamacare which was
2500-plus pages, and we were told we had to read it after it was
passed before finding out what was in it.), and it has in those
many pages too many loopholes.

Republicans control the U.S. house of representatitves.  Under
the leadership of Speaker John Boehner, they could and should
create better and alternative legislation, and insist on their
improvements in the resulting conference with the U.S. senate
before final legislation is sent to the White House for presidential
signature and enactment.

Many voices on the right and the left, with differing motivations,
now speak out against immigration reform, In the national
Republican Party particularly those voices threaten retribution
against their own candidates and incumbents in 2014 if
immigration reform is passed. This has been complicated by
some in the Democratic Party who want to pass reform for
partisan gain (and enjoy taunting Republicans).

The U.S. house needs to look beyond this. The Republican Party
needs to be part of the solution to immigration reform. No one
living in America, if they are law-abiding, should have to live in
fear and secrecy.

The claim by some that passing immigration reform will be a
long-term windfall for the Democratic Party, insuring their
domination of U.S. for decades to come is, in fact, a political
“red herring” and not based on the facts. Neither party
can automatically presume the allegiance of Hispanic voters.
With its conservative principles, the Republican Party has as
much claim to the votes of Hispanic voters in the future, voters
who are by tradition and heritage conservative.

The U.S. senate bill is flawed, but can be repaired by the U.S.
house. It should be done now, well before the 2014 midterm
national elections. Those elections should be contested over
other issues, issues which impact all Americans.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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