Comprehensive immigration reform is a moral imperative. It is, simply, the right thing to do for our nation and for undocumented immigrants, most of whom are of Mexican ancestry.
A Gallup poll conducted last month showed overwhelming public support for reform. By a margin of 88 percent to 12 percent, a path to citizenship was favored for undocumented immigrants already here. Other key reforms were favored by a like percentage. It’s hard to argue with margins of that magnitude.
And yet, a number of Congressional Democrats and a significant majority of Republicans strongly oppose comprehensive reform and vehemently oppose a path to citizenship, the subject of this column. Why is this?
I do not pass judgment on any individual, but it seems to me many Americans have a visceral dislike, maybe even hatred or fear, of Mexican people as a class. In my experience and observation, that is not justified. Mexicans are strongly family-oriented, friendly, hardworking people of faith. The great majority of them who come to this country seek only a better life and have no criminal intent.
Drug runners and other criminals who cross our borders should be pursued vigorously by law enforcement authorities and prosecuted according to law. But the conduct of those individuals should not tarnish the many who come here innocently and live lawfully within society.
On June 27, the U.S. Senate passed SB 744, which includes many needed reforms. The path to citizenship it offers, however, requires at least 13 years before any undocumented immigrant already in the country can achieve that goal. But that’s not all. No one could apply for such citizenship until the Mexican border is secure, adding 10 or more years to the process. Border security, a vaguely defined mandate, may never be achieved sufficiently to satisfy reform opponents.
Such an unreasonable, even cruel, delay renders the path to citizenship almost meaningless. Importantly, it denies the benefits citizenship would bring to our nation and the stability it would provide to immigrant families.
Some members of Congress charge that granting citizenship to undocumented immigrants would make a mockery of the Rule of Law. That claim is belied by the reality that clemency for qualified criminals and compassion for the poor and needy are vital principles of American jurisprudence. And, certainly, forgiveness is a bedrock precept of Judeo-Christian values.
Opponents of reform offer no resolution to the issue of the 11 million undocumented immigrants already here. In lockstep, they simplistically echo “enforce the laws,” knowing those laws underlie the current failed system; and they ridicule proponents of reform by labeling them with derogatory terms such as “Hispandering” activists. Neither tactic is constructive.
House Republicans immediately declared SB 744 dead upon arrival. In a recent CBS-TV interview, Speaker John Boehner repeatedly refused even to say whether he personally supports comprehensive immigration reform. He just kept saying the House will “work its will,” an unspoken acknowledgement that his leadership has been marginalized by the ideology-bound House Republican caucus.
Bo Statham is a retired lawyer, congressional aide and businessman. He lives in Gardnerville and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.