It’s no wonder that Congress has proven itself incapable of reforming the nation’s immigration system.
Liberals and conservatives have different ideas of what “reform” means. Liberals think it means legalizing the undocumented, while conservatives think it means securing the borders. Liberals are reluctant to confront labor unions that oppose guest workers, just as conservatives never miss a chance to weaken employer sanctions opposed by big business. But another problem is that, once in power, both sides have the same tendency to overreach.
When Republicans controlled Congress and the White House, they abandoned common sense, pandered to the extremes, devised simplistic solutions, and attacked the problem with outrageous proposals that never stood a chance of being accepted by the other side.
Now that Democrats control Congress and the White House, they’re ready to abandon common sense, pander to the extremes, devise simplistic solutions, and attack the problem with outrageous proposals that don’t stand a chance of being accepted by the other side.
Republicans started out with strong arguments that enjoyed a substantial amount of popular support — that the United States couldn’t have porous borders after the Sept. 11th attacks, that existing laws should be enforced, that those in the country illegally have earned a one-way trip out of the country, etc. Then some of them lost focus and veered off into more controversial territory by declaring English the national language, threatening to deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants, and targeting churches and social service agencies that aid illegal immigrants. These ideas were more divisive and unrealistic. And so they ultimately helped rally the opposition and kill reform.
Now liberal immigrant activists are poised to make the same mistake — even as they try to advance a very different agenda. Given President-elect Obama’s support for comprehensive immigration reform, they might have a shot at securing earned legalization for millions of illegal immigrants provided the immigrants pay fines, learn English, undergo criminal background checks, and meet other conditions. But they don’t want to stop there. Instead, take a look at what some of these activists have on their wish list: an end to all residential and workplace immigration raids, the terminating of any collaborative agreements between federal immigration authorities and local law enforcement agencies, an end to the speedy deportation of illegal immigrants, and an end to the practice of sending “no match” letters to employers when their employees’ Social Security numbers don’t match the names the government has on file.
Those are some of the loony demands recently made on the members of President-elect Obama’s “immigration transition team” — an informal group of advisers on immigration issues — by a group made up of more than a dozen immigrant leaders from around the country. The meeting was set up by a leftwing organization calling itself the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC).
The way these activists see it, the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in this country are an “invaluable asset for the wellbeing and progress of the United States of America.” But they’re also helpless victims of powerful forces beyond their control and a bureaucratic system that can’t keep up with demand. The fact that these illegal immigrants are even here represents, in the words of this group, a “failure by our federal policy makers to keep our immigration law in sync with today’s global labor market dynamics and with the nation’s changing demographics.” And the only solutions that will work are ones that “address the root causes of immigration and alleviate poverty in migrant-sending countries by promoting sustainable economic development.”
No word on how Obama’s representatives responded to the demands. But one would hope they pushed back. These proposals are outrageous and would amount to maintaining an open border. Advocating for a path to legalization for illegal immigrants who are already here is one thing; undermining the right of a sovereign country surrendering the right to protect its border is another.
The left should concentrate on what it can achieve in immigration reform and be careful not to repeat the mistakes made by those on the right. Otherwise, they might find themselves with the same thing their opponents wound up with after all their bluster: nothing.