President Barack Obama went fishing for Latino votes Tuesday at the Texas border with Mexico.
He won’t get the immigration reform act he wants. He won’t know about the votes until fall 2012.
Obama correctly blamed Republicans for killing comprehensive reform. GOP die-hards in the Senate even refused to pass the DREAM Act — the bill the House passed that would give the children of illegal immigrants a break. These are kids who came here because their parents brought them; some as infants. They were youngsters who knew no other homeland. The practical principles in the DREAM Act, like those espoused by President George W. Bush and, before he was converted at a conservative revival, Sen. John McCain, have broad support across the country. The act would give young illegal immigrants who go to U.S. colleges or serve in the U.S. military a chance at legal status.
But opposition to those principles has become part of the conservative orthodoxy today.
As the president quipped in barroom humor, the Republicans who now speak for their party won’t be happy until there is a moat separating Mexico and the U.S. — with alligators in it.
So Obama turned elsewhere Tuesday. Rather than aim his words at members of Congress, he asked the people of Texas and, through the media, the rest of the country, for help.
He has done his part, he said. The Border Patrol is at an all-time high. National Guard units are stationed in Arizona and elsewhere to bolster the Patrol. Illegal immigrants who have committed crimes are being deported. More shipments into the U.S. from Mexico are being screened. Mexico is getting our help with its struggle against the drug cartels.
Still, more progress will be made if comprehensive immigration reform is accomplished, he said, and the way to do that is to show Congress that the people support it.
THE ARGUMENT is as old as it is logical: So long as there are 11 million or more illegals in the land, there will be an invisible army of low-wage workers who can be exploited because standing up for their rights can get them deported. The U.S. middle class suffers as a result. Jobs that would otherwise go to U.S. high school graduates are taken by illegals who will work harder and demand less. Immigration reform would change that scene dramatically.
The upper middle class gets hit, too. Bright immigrants without papers who manage to get a college education or achieve technical skills, find they must leave the U.S. to get a job with a future.
So, as the president said, we train them and they go to work for our competitors. Smart? Not so very.
In a nutshell, our immigration policies make the recession worse. In addition, be-cause spending on border control has skyrocketed, those policies also add a healthy chunk to the deficit every year.
The exasperating thing about this debate is that those who oppose the kinds of reform that President Bush advocated and now President Obama has adopted have no alternative that takes the country forward. What happens after the borders are made as secure as we can afford to make them? The 11 million illegals are still here. It would be logistically impossible to round them up and deport them. And if it were possible, any effort to do so would bring an army of employers — the hotel and restaurant industries, the construction industry, farmers and ranchers and everyone who hires yard and house work done — to Washington demanding that the effort stop and right now.
WHAT WE KNOW for a fact is that the immigration policies we have aren’t working. President Obama’s call for structured reform should win popular approval and its success might even evoke a silent sigh of relief from today’s opponents.
— Emerson Lynn, jr.