Immigration reform is back on the front burner as a major issue in Washington, and the Republicans are taking the lead. When Senator John McCain was asked why Republicans were actively joining Democrats in a bipartisan effort to legalize millions of illegal immigrants, McCain forthrightly replied: “Simple. Elections -- the Republican Party is losing the support of Hispanics.” In other words, principal has gone by the wayside, and politics is the driving force to survive and succeed in the nations’ capitol.
What happened to the laws on the books concerning illegal immigration? When you break into my home, you are committing a crime. But when you break into my country, it has become, to our leaders in Washington, merely an embarrassing inconvenience. Republicans are now throwing in the towel, and giving up on seeing that current law is enforced. Has it become OK to set aside the law and ignore its violation for political purposes? It would appear so.
And what’s all this stuff about “undocumented workers?” The lead Republican in this effort to legalize those who have illegally entered the United States is Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio. He conveniently refers to these illegals as “individuals who are living in the United States without proper immigration documents.” That’s like saying that your local drug dealer is in possession of large amounts of cocaine, but just forgot to get a doctor’s prescription.
Deleted from the new bipartisan rhetoric is the word “amnesty.” Neither party wants to own up to the fact that a blanket exoneration is given to 11 million illegals who will now receive instant legal status. Republicans and Democrats, alike, vehemently deny that amnesty will take place under the new proposed plan. That’s because illegals will have to get in line for both a green card and citizenship after paying a fine and back taxes. Come on now. That’s about as close to amnesty as you can get. Does it make it any less so because you refuse to call it that?
Senator Charles Schumer makes no bones about what he thinks the new proposal will mean: “On Day One of our bill, the people without status [i.e., illegal immigrants] who are not criminals or security risks will be able to live and work here legally.” So probationary legal status becomes automatic. The hundreds of thousands foreigners who also want to obtain legal status and have been following the specific laws on the books, and who have been on a waiting list for years, will find themselves in a secondary status. The new message is that if you come in illegally, you get to jump to the head of the line.
What about the idea that a “path to citizenship” must be cleared for this large reservoir of illegals to move towards becoming Americans? Do the undocumented want one? Boston College immigration expert Peter Skerry points out that “a quarter century after the 1980s amnesty, only 41% of the nearly 2.7 million individuals who became legal permanent residents had gone on to exercise the option to naturalize. In other words, when offered the chance to become citizens, the overwhelming majority of the undocumented have settled for less.”
Many proponents will argue that these illegals are filling open jobs for farm labor, as well as domestic and construction jobs that are available. But does one have to be a lawbreaker to perform these tasks? There are millions of non-citizens who have skills and want to come to the U.S. legally. If the country has a need for skilled and unskilled workers that cannot be filled by U.S. citizens, than certainly open up the doors. But do so for those who want to enter the U.S. legally and obey the law.
Then there’s the fairness issue. Many illegals crossed into the U.S., smuggling in their very young children with them. These young illegals grew up in the U.S., and they know of no other country or language. Certainly it doesn’t seem fair that these kids are burdened with their illegal status through no fault of their own. But do you blame U.S. citizens for the poor decision-making on the part of the parents who broke the law? The parents of such children will argue that they were only trying to make a better life for their kids. This is certainly a noble goal. But U.S. families have to make sacrifices and difficult choices in order to help their families, too. The difference is that they do this lawfully. There are consequences and risks when the law is broken. These parents who entered the country illegally put their children at such risk.
Perhaps Congress can work out some exceptions in the face of important needs and right now the U.S. volunteer army is significantly shorthanded. Women are being called into combat. There may be place for those who want to become citizens to go to the front of the pack by volunteering to serve in the armed services for 3 to 5 years.
Cynics might point out that Republicans are stirring up a hornet’s nest that they may well come to regret. Hispanics overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama and Democrats across the country in both state and national elections. As editors of the National Review pointed out this week: “Take away the Spanish surname and Latino voters look a great deal like many other Democratic constituencies. Low–income households headed by single mothers and dependent on some form of welfare are not looking for an excuse to join forces with the likes of Republican Paul Ryan.”
Any thoughts that an amnesty proposal will bring Hispanics into a growing GOP tent seems to be little more than wishful thinking. Republicans never had a significant Latino vote, and won’t in the immediate future. The John McCains of the congress need to put partisan opportunities aside and build election victories on principals, not politics.