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We can't just say no to immigration reform
Immigration--an issue in search of an answer

  Richard Amrhine's archive
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Date published: 7/15/2007

By Richard Amrhine

IF YOU HAVE an im- migration plan that Americans could agree on, the president and the U.S. Congress would like to hear from you.

Good luck coming up with one. It would need to satisfy Americans ranging from those committed to welcoming more of "your tired, your poor" to the melting pot, to those who object primarily to the economic burden, to those who are mired in prejudice and hypocrisy.

A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Senate killed an immigration measure that was supported by President Bush and a bipartisan consortium in Congress. It would have beefed up border patrols. It would have cracked down on employers of illegal immigrants. It would have put some 12 million illegals on the road to citizenship--a plan that opponents labeled "amnesty." A new policy for "guest workers" would keep track of immigrants who come here to work for tax-collection purposes.

It is a rare bill that faces opposition so vehement from both the left and right that a bipartisan compromise ends in failure.

I actually empathize with President Bush on this one. As a Texas rancher he probably understands the issue's importance and divisiveness as well as anyone. He demonstrated leadership and bridged the partisan divide, bringing together congressional friends and foes who would begin to solve what may be the nation's most pressing domestic issue.

He thought he might have a victory to celebrate. But he was wrong. Though it was primarily the president's own party that doomed the bill, the voting lines were more geographic than partisan. States accustomed to, or less affected by, immigration favored the legislation; states with new and burgeoning immigrant populations were adamantly against it.

So we are left with the status quo--the same illogical, unworkable, and expensive policies that have brought emotions on the issue to the boiling point. The disagreements that stymied the Senate reflect those embodied by the nation as a whole.

As the legislation's supporters invited--even begged for--proposals with more palatable language and amendments, opponents had nothing to offer. Appeasement isn't possible when communication has broken down.

Of the many elements to the immigration debate, here are some that I find particularly interesting:

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