Just a few years ago, an outraged American people managed to prevent Congress from passing “comprehensive immigration reform” that amounted to amnesty.
But now it’s more likely to pass – not because the legalities or moralities have changed, but because the politics have. Democrats, who see 11 million illegals as potential Democratic voters, hold the White House, the upper house and the upper hand. And Republicans, if they ever want to win another national election, pretty much have to swallow their principles and go along.
Demagoguery has won the day. If you’re against illegal immigration or blanket amnesty for illegals, you’re supposedly anti-immigrant. All immigration is the same, whether legal or not, we’re supposed to believe, and regardless of whether there’s any assimilation involved or any true desire to become American.
Those of us who have been privileged to be involved in naturalization ceremonies – for which legal immigrants study our country and its history and swear their allegiance to it – have seen what a beautiful, moving, meaningful process it is. It provides us with grateful, knowledgeable new Americans, the same way Ellis Island did.
Illegal immigration, meanwhile, manufactures workers, whose identities, allegiances, whereabouts and tax contributions are largely unknown, whose wages are often sent out of the country, and who, to accomplish all this, have jumped the border to cut in front of those who wait patiently in line to come here legally.
By all means, let’s reward that!
Well, it appears we must, as the political momentum seems unstoppable now. Indeed, a bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators is working on a bill.
Perhaps the only thing left to do is to get the best deal we can – a “path to citizenship” or something akin to it that includes as much of a criminal background check as can be done; payment of back taxes, penalties and/or fees; a naturalization-type process of civics instruction and assimilation that includes learning English; and, first and foremost, a securing of the border before anything else goes forward.
A continued failure to secure the borders would simply invite more lawlessness in the future, and make amnesty completely meaningless. And it would continue this country’s reprehensible decades-long devaluation of American citizenship, the most prized in the world – at least outside of America.
A short course in American civics might inspire illegal immigrants to appreciate our system of government better than many of our native-born citizens seem to do.
It’s interesting that President Obama did nothing on immigration in his first four
years, the first two of which he had a compliant Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. But now he’s in a sudden hurry, insisting reform must take place without delay. Perhaps that’s because the 2014 midterm elections are now on the horizon, and he wants Democrats to look heroic.
The debate also does a good job of shifting attention away from the miserable Obama economy, which shrank in the fourth quarter and has only been hit with higher taxes this quarter.
Either way, let’s face it: Reason has lost, and fairness and legality have been drowned in a tidal wave of humanity and electoral politics. Intentional neglect of our borders, greed and political expediency have won the day.
It may well be all we can do to just try to salvage what respect we can for the tottering American experiment – a system of self-governance and the rule of law that, when honored, produces more freedom and prosperity than any yet devised by the mind of man.
If only we would honor it again.
Even in its weakened state, buffeted by a moribund economy and an increasingly slavish devotion to the oppressive hand of big government, America is that shining city on a hill that the world’s tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free still look to.
American citizenship should never have been given away illegally like so much scrap.
Do we think enough of it to stop doing that?