The Immigration Debate Cries Out for Honesty

What is the immigration debate in need of most?

It depends on whom you ask. Conservatives say it requires more toughness, a willingness to seal the border and round up illegal immigrants. Liberals say it could use more compassion, an understanding that many of those who come to the United States illegally do so for a better life just like earlier waves of immigrants.

They’re both wrong. What the immigration debate needs most isn’t toughness or compassion. It’s honesty. Whether it is to make their camp look better or to make it easier to discredit their opponents, people on both sides of this argument sure do spend a lot of time and energy denying the obvious.

On the right, that means accepting some hard truths: that racism and ethnocentrism are part of this discussion and they have been since the first immigrants arrived in the 18th century; that many of those who rail against illegal immigration also want to limit legal immigration even if they’re reluctant to admit it; that cities and states that complain about the cost of illegal immigration also benefit from it through taxes and a more productive business climate; that illegal immigration is a self-inflicted wound that some cities and states bring upon themselves and some don’t; that illegal immigrants do not usually take jobs away from Americans but rather do jobs that Americans won’t do; and that it is simply not the case that lazy and entitled young Americans in particular would rush out and do the kind of hard and dirty jobs their grandparents did if only employers paid higher wages.