While illegal immigration has temporarily been out of public interest, in favor of more pressing economic issues and more salacious airport security stories, there is no more an agreed-upon solution now than there was at the height of the debate surrounding Arizona’s recent, but increasingly forgotten, immigration law.
It would be disingenuous to minimize the nuances of the issue and the ideological differences which inform competing resolutions. But, nonetheless, it seems there should be enough common ground amongst lawmakers to humanely and practically come to an acceptable policy.
Most basically, every nation has a right to protect its borders and its sovereignty. There are not only numerous safety concerns accumulated by negligence in maintaining border security, but also fundamental conceptions of nationhood are undermined in this process.
It would, however, only be a start to successfully manage the borders. There are an estimated 11.1 million people in the United States without legal status, with four out of five being of Hispanic origin, according to Pew Research Center. It would not be incorrect to point out illegal immigration is illegal. Many are eager to take advantage of this linguistic quirk, but it is intuitively wrong to liken illegal immigrants collectively to petty thieves or drug dealers.
Context shows this minimal interest in enforcement of border security, combined with labor demands to welcome and take advantage of a class of foreign workers who don’t burden their employers with a bothersome legal status, to be problematic.
The situation that invites prospective workers seeking better life opportunities, while marginalizing them by withholding accompanying protections, is hardly one to maintain. While mass deportation is both impractical and compassionless, the automatic granting of citizenship would be contextually dense and fail to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration. Ultimately, a path to citizenship that encourages assimilation and rewards the well-intentioned remains the best solution.
When, exactly, such a comprehensive immigration reform that considers border protection, the legal status of undocumented workers and a guest worker program, will be seriously undertaken is not entirely clear.
Recently, President Obama voiced support for the DREAM Act to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The DREAM Act would provide a selected path to citizenship through military service or college attendance for those who entered the country as children. The adage of “better than nothing” fits here, as it does in most achievements of government. While it is positive and should be passed, it is not a sufficient handling of illegal immigration.
Since President George W. Bush seems to be back in vogue, with a recent media tour and rising favorability numbers, perhaps his words will reverberate more now than in 2007 when he first spoke them:
“And yet the system is broken to the point where people are being used as human cargo, being exploited, simply because most want to come and provide for their families; most are willing to do jobs Americans aren’t doing. The system needs to be fixed.”