Immigration Band-Aid Won’t Cut It

Why is it that the very idea of comprehensive immigration reform is such an onerous idea for those on the Right?  It seems that they’d rather grouse about immigration and lament that illegal immigration is such a drag on our society, but when it comes to sitting down and doing the hard work to actually do something to solve the problem, they hem and haw and head for the hills.

The Democrats haven’t exactly been out front on the issue, either, but then again, until now they haven’t had the power to meaningfully address the issue.  And while they haven’t officailly put it on the table, at least they don’t run away from it (not yet, anyway).  Give credit too to George W. Bush for at least attempting to bring the issue to the fore, only to see his Republican friends in Congress scurry away from it like cockroaches.  After all, we wouldn’t want them to actually tackle an issue that was hard, now, would we?

See, Republicans tend to see this as a very simple issue with pretty simple answers:  More guns, more barriers, more muscle, more enforcement on the border.  But it’s not that simple.  Far from it.  The enforcement only band-aid won’t fix our problems.  Closing the borders and sealing it off so that no one gets in at all will only exacerbate the problem.  And it’s wholly unrealistic.  People who want to sneak in will still find ways to do so.

Arizona and (to a slightly lesser extent) California have a very serious problem and are in dire need of very serious solutions.  The trouble is no one seems willing to do the heavy lifting required to find serious solutions.  California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been screaming for years for more federal attention, with some success; then again, it is a bit less of a challenge to patrol 140 miles of border than it is to patrol 351 miles of barren desert.  But our senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, haven’t done enough to heed Schwarzenegger’s call and push the federal government to take serious action.

In Arizona, the former self-proclaimed “Maverick” turned political coward John McCain and his Arizona Senate colleague Jon Kyl used to be vocal proponents of comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform.  They realized that their state was in a bad way, and at one time actually thought about doing something about it.  But, as the Arizona Republic excoriates in their front page editorial this past weekend, they’ve both abandoned their supposed principles in favor of political expediency in order to pander to their extreme right-wing base.  Solving a complex problem involves instituting some policies that are politically unpopular with the Republican base and plutonium for the Republican leadership, so it’s off limits.

Policies such as creating a path to citizenship for those already here.  That way the U.S. government could document who’s here, conduct background checks on them to help ensure that the criminal element is kept in check, and separate the wheat from the chaff:  It can then be presumed that those who actually register want to work toward citizenship and become productive members of our society.  They can then have their status normalized, be able to legally find a job and pay taxes, be able to be monitored, and be set on a rigorous course to citizenship.  Those who refuse to participate or don’t measure up in the background check can be assumed to be here for less than honorable reasons, and thus can be deported when caught.

Policies like streamlining and simplifying the process to immigrate legally.  We have the technology now to do this and make it unnecessary for so many to risk their lives to cross illegally and live their lives on the lam when they get here.  The reason so many do it is because the process as it stands is so difficult and cumbersome and horribly inefficient.  It takes years, sometimes decades to come here legally through the system, and these folks simply don’t have that kind of time.  Speed it up and give them hope that they can go through proper channels.  Allowing them to come here legally ensures that they can pay their taxes and not simply leech off of our society.  Background checks and government scrutiny will help to filter out the bad seeds from those looking to come in earnest.

Policies like creating a guest worker program so that migrant workers can come and work in the fields or at other seasonal jobs, and then be free to return home having earned enough money to provide for their families and without the worry of not being able to cross back into the U.S. for the next round.  Many of those here illegally would go back if they could, but because of the difficulties and dangers they face in crossing the border northward, once they’re here they’re stuck.  And the simple fact is that our farms and industries need them and their services.

Reforming our immigration system would also reduce the migrants’ need to rely on the drug traffickers and gun runners that have made life such a living hell and has put so many migrants into indentured servitude, and that has made life so miserable and frightening for so many living in what would otherwise be quiet, safe neighborhoods. By taking away the power of the drug cartels to traffic in human suffering, we diminish their power to terrorize our neighborhoods.

And then there’s the unthinkable policies that would tighten and strengthen our gun laws in an effort to make it as near to impossible as we can for the cartels to arm themselves to the teeth on this side of the border with all manner of advanced weaponry that allows them to outgun the Mexican authorities who are attempting to curtail their reign of terror in the border region.  Authorities have determined that Houston is the number one source of weapons for the drug cartels, accounting for nearly 90 percent of the weapons seized between 2007 and 2008.

The ATF is stepping up its efforts to track the sources of weapons, spreading their new eTrace system into U.S. consulates in Mexico and providing access to Mexican authorities in an effort to track the sources of cartel weapons, and has concluded that the problem of supply lies on the northern side of the border.  It was guns from the U.S. that were used in the massacre at an Acapulco resort in 2007.  Mexican authorities have practically begged U.S. authorities to clamp down on the gun trade, but the gun rights advocates will have none of it.  They apparently don’t understand, or just plain don’t care, that their insistence on their right to own any kind of sub-machine gun or high-powered rifle that rapid fires rounds more akin to artillery shells than more conventional bullets is what is enabling the cartels to do what they do and how they do it.  Cut off the supply of guns, and you emasculate their ability to control the border region through terror.

Solving our immigration problem will be hard work, and will involve enacting a lot of policies that may not be politically popular.  But that’s what we sent our representatives to Washington for; to do what needs to be done, not what’s politically popular or expedient.  It’s time to stop crying about it and start doing something about it.  It’s time for the Republicans to stop trying to make a very complex and complicated issue into a simple matter of enforcement.  It’s time for the Democrats to get off their collective asses and work to solve another difficult problem.

It’s time for President Obama and Speaker Pelosi to follow through on their pledge to worry more about solving problems than winning elections.  Fix what’s broken and the elections will take care of themselves.

UPDATE:  Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who was arrested this past weekend at an immigration rally outside the White House for “failure to obey a lawful order from a U.S. Park policeman,” on with Keith Olbermann this evening discussing proposals he intends to advance in Congress:

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