One of the big issues those on the Left fear will be scuttled now Republicans won the midterm elections is immigration reform. Obama vows to continue the fight to make inroads on this issue but even if he does, the odds are against him.
That is too bad. U.S. immigration policy is in dire need of being updated to reflect the realities of what is going on in our country and around the world. But even with that being said, what we all know is that when we talk about immigration reform and immigration in general, we are talking about Latino immigration. Which is why immigration reform is consistently at the top of the list for Hispanic voters in terms of issues they care about. States that border Mexico clearly have a huge stake in this issue and based on the size and electoral college pull in Presidential elections, these states carry huge clout.
Right now people in these border states know firsthand that the current policy is a joke. Undocumented people stream across the border from California to Texas with relative ease in many cases and with extreme danger in others. But either way, they are crossing the border. And those already across are here in large numbers already, working, living and contributing to our society everyday. And many of them send huge chunks of what they make in income back across the border to help take care of family they are still waiting to get over to this side. And while they are here, living no differently than the rest of us, these undocumented workers cannot get the full benefit of being a part of our society.
Of course some argue that this is how it should be, since they are “illegal,” since they chose to come over here the wrong way. But that is ridiculous - the urge for freedom and economic stability is the most powerful motivation there is and no man-made line in the dirt is going to stop people from striving for those goals. We live in a time of globalization, and yet we continue to hold onto this idea that the U.S. is its own entity, completely separate from the outside world. Mexico is one of our biggest import partners, and so basically what we are saying is - we love Mexicans when they're making our products, but God forbid they even think about trying to live near us. What we need to do is recognize what is really happening and change our immigration laws to account for the fact that there are a lot of people who are desperate to get here, and who would do it the right way if the right way wasn’t so onerous, expensive and slow.
The second major reform needed is a way to transition those already here to American citizenship, not just the children, but also their parents. The opposition likes to point out that by doing so, all we are doing is rewarding their illegal behavior and encouraging more of the same. But what is more important to me is the fact that there is no real benefit in pretending these millions of people are not here already and by pretending all we are doing is forcing them to live “off the books” and in a way that is dangerous for them, due to having to avoid proper health care and in some cases impacting educational opportunities. Forcing them to live in a hidden way also prevents our government and the rest of us from benefitting from the millions in local and federal tax dollars we could be getting if they were on the books. Some estimates are that 10 to 11 million undocumented immigrants live and work in the U.S. It is just silly to ignore this fact and voluntarily choose to deny them and the rest of us all the benefits that would come from their status being changed.
So whether the Republicans will allow progress on this issue is hard to tell. Speaker Boehner has made it clear he is not interested in pushing froward on this. And Republicans in Congress have voted time after time to defund programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, one of the programs pro immigration supporters have championed. There is even concern that Obama will scuttle his own efforts in a move to get along these last two years. But let’s hope he sticks to his promises on this one. However it happens, this is a fight worth fighting. By changing our immigration policy we allow all of us, not just immigrants, to stop pretending and get on with living the American dream and American way all of us deserve. Our laws should reflect reality, not outdated notions.