Immigration has been a hot-button issue for many years; it’s also a hot potato issue. Successive Presidents and Congresses have wanted to deal with it, but have been reluctant to deal with it. With the Senate set to take on comprehensive immigration reform in June, it seems likely that a simple solution will be ditched for the sake of political gain. The Hispanic vote has become a tasty political pie; Democrats want to maintain and expand their overwhelming share of it, while Republicans will do nothing to threaten the small slice they have.
The common refrain is that the current immigration system is broken. In truth, this is simply not true; the immigration laws already on the books are clear and comprehensive. The enforcement of those laws is what’s broken. Border security is also broken. Estimates of how many illegal aliens currently reside in the U.S. range from 11 to around 20 million. The systematic failure to enforce immigration law, coupled with lax border security, is what has led to that situation.
A look at recent polling on the twin subjects of immigration policy and border security produces a strong picture of how the American people feel: They are clearly in favor of providing a way for illegal immigrants already in the country to become legal and, eventually, become citizens. At the same time, polling shows that Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of stricter enforcement of immigration laws and a tightening of border security.
In a recent poll from the Pew Research Center, for example, 73% of those who responded believe that illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay, while only 25% said that they should not be allowed to remain in the country (margin of error: 2.9). In the same poll, 44% were in favor of illegals being given a path to citizenship, 25% thought they should stay as Permanent Residents and 25% believed that they should be required to leave. In a CBS News/New York Times, conducted from late April to early May, 43% of those polled said that illegals should be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship, 21% were in favor of allowing them to stay as guest workers and 32% thought they should leave the U.S. (Margin of error: 3). A Fox News poll from April found that 78% of respondents favored allowing illegal immigrants to stay and apply for citizenship, while just 21% were opposed to this idea. The margin of error for that poll was 3%.
In relation to border security, the same Fox News poll showed that 60% thought security at the nation’s borders was not strict enough, 32% said that it was about right and only 3% thought security was too strict. 68% of those polled by Fox were in favor of border security being improved before any changes are made to immigration policy; 22% were opposed to this, with 10% saying they were not sure. Regardless of the prevailing sentiment, however, the question is: Should illegal activity be forgiven, just because the majority appears to be willing to allow it? According to the Pew Research Center, a little over half of Americans support the legalization of Marijuana, and yet it remains an illegal substance – at least at the federal level. The point being that the United States is a Federal Republic, not a direct Democracy.
The radical Left cries racism every time someone speaks out in favor of immigration law being more strictly enforced. They conveniently ignore the fact that every country in the world enforces immigration law and border security; most of them far more strictly than does the U.S. Mexico practices a zero-tolerance policy, when it comes to illegal – and, indeed, legal – immigrants: Someone who enters Mexico illegal will not only find it almost impossible to gain employment, but they will also find that they have no access to government services or welfare programs, they will have to speak Spanish, when dealing with any type of authority and, if discovered, they will face certain jail and deportation. Under Mexican law, a foreigner cannot even own property in certain areas (close to the border or on the coast). Dealings with officialdom are conducted only in Spanish. This apparent “racism” on the part of the Mexican government doesn’t seem to bother the extreme Left, who really see illegal immigrants as potential voters – even before they gain legal status. Republicans are constantly berated for their opposition to immigration reform, but – were Republicans to propose a complete amnesty, on condition that those who entered the country illegally are prohibited from voting for 10 years – the Left would suddenly be less enthusiastic in their championing of rights for illegals.
On Tuesday an immigration reform bill sponsored by a bi-partisan group of Senators known as the “gang of eight” came through the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill lays out a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, in addition to providing tough enforcement and border security; two measures that will clearly never be supported by those who advocate for illegal immigrant rights. Without tighter security at the border and stricter enforcement of immigration law, however, this bill – if signed into law – will only inevitably lead to a greater influx of undocumented aliens who will believe that, sooner or later, their flouting of U.S. immigration law will be rewarded.
Republicans fail to understand the obvious: Their support of any bill that provides a pathway to citizenship for illegals will not gain them a larger slice of the pie. President Obama and the Democratic Party will merely say that Republican support was a cynical ploy to win favor with the Hispanic community. Additionally, those Republicans who support the bill will further alienate themselves from the Conservative base, where the prevailing belief is that law-breaking should not be rewarded, or at least that the flow of illegals into the country should be stopped, before any leniency is shown to those already here. Conservatives, while not opposed to immigration, want to see immigrants integrate themselves into American society and remain self-sufficient. They also want to ensure that any immigration reform enacted now does not lead to a repeat of the problem, sometime down the road. As reported in USA Today, Marco Rubio (R-FL), one of the gang of eight, told CBS This Morning “The vast majority of conservative Republicans are saying “We are prepared. We know we need to do immigration reform, just please make sure that this illegal immigration wave doesn’t happen again.”…I think that’s a very reasonable request.”
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who is opposed to the bill, said Tuesday that any pathway to citizenship is “…unfair to the millions of legal immigrants, who have followed the rules; who have waited in line years, and sometimes decades, to come.” He went on to say that if a pathway to citizenship is included in the legislation “…it will serve only to encourage yet more illegal immigration.”
The current bill does not face an easy passage, but it has a good chance of making it through the Senate, in some form. The easy solution to illegal immigration is firm enforcement of current laws, coupled with an efficient and comprehensive overhaul of border security. What may happen instead is the introduction of another massive piece of legislation that will not be enforced and will send out the signal that, should an individual illegally enter the United States, they will eventually be forgiven; the American Dream will be handed to them on a plate, while many others stand in line.
Written by Graham J Noble