What Does “Secure The Border” Actually Mean?
IIP > IOP
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act which was supposed to be a long-term, if not permanent, solution to the immigration problem, and in exchange, what I call “immigrants outside the process (IOPS) already in the country for four years were given a one-time path to citizenship. There were approximately 5 million IOPS in 1986. There are approximately 11 million IOPS now. What happened? Well, like relationships and American history, it’s complicated.
There is no complete security at the border eliminating 100% of illegal immigration mmmmmkay? Like drugs, alcohol, guns, pornography, cigarettes and prostitution, there is demand for it so someone will supply it. If you want to “protect the border”, prepare to be disappointed with living in the real world and tolerating reduction rather than achieving total elimination.
To be transparent, I support a path to legalization for full citizenship but; if not, at least lawful permanent residency for non-felons. The terms of a path to legalization, one that will become a permanent feature of our immigration laws, should preserve the preference and priority for “immigrants in the process” (IIPS) incentivizing people to come legally.
It has become a loaded term. If it’s not mass deportations or the Mitt Romney preferred “self-deportation”, it’s amnesty. Proposals involving penalties or disabilities that make people worse off than if they had come legally, or even worse off than they were before gaining legal status are not even considered by the “deport or die” crowd. Why?
Governments use amnesty, clemencies or similar programs for things as big as taxes or as small as parking violations. People who qualify for them are not ostracized. Hardly anyone gets punished to the full statutory maximum penalty for any offense criminally. The idea of paying a debt to American society to return to American society is a staple in our criminal law. Why not pay a debt to American society to enter American society?
I don’t understand blanket condemnation of any and all policies that allow people to stay in the U.S. after entering illegally. Are these new immigrants somehow less capable of becoming Americans than previous immigrants? If so, why? This country has a long history of people making it here overcoming all sorts of odds. People who want to be Americans, who contribute as American citizens and IIPs do, should be allowed to stay here and continue to be Americans.
Don’t Be Dumb
Because illegal entry is a form of conduct, not identity, referring to people as “illegal” is nonsensical. People are not a legal status. The term “alien” was used really in only the 18th and 19th centuries. “Undocumented Immigrants” is an awkward term for it minimizes what IIPs go through to become naturalized citizens. This is where IIP and IOP are more accurate. Anyone who has come here and lived in America for a considerable period of time is an immigrant American for all intents and purposes. Immigrants were either in the process or outside of the process to get to that point. IIPs with an easier path than IOPs.
When Immigration Isn’t Immigration
While I think it’s important to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration, I don’t think this is a cut and dry case of “law and order”. If it were, we would be prosecuting people who hire IOPs to the fullest extent of the law. I don’t see much difference between the immigrant who comes here, settles down and establishes roots, and the immigrant who files the paperwork, settles down and establishes roots. They both spend a ton of money in the process. The IOP exchanges bureaucracy for a life risking trip here.
What’s The Problem?
Some people simply don’t like Mexicans (an umbrella term for Central and South Americans as well), or generally dislike non-English speakers. Can’t do anything about that.
Some people associate a certain level of poverty and lack of social cohesion with immigrants. Those things come with certain groups of Americans though.
Some think all immigration should be restricted, legal and illegal. Accommodating an unlimited number of people who did not grow up here is unrealistic, and there are those who argue that too many immigrants drive down wages and reduce job opportunities for native-born Americans. This view is prevalent among labor unions and blue-collar workers black and white. It was the view of Cesar Chavez. It is, at least in part, why Mexico itself has such draconian immigration laws. The same arguments are echoed in debates over agricultural guest workers and H-1B visas for high-tech workers. These concerns should be in the public forum even if they are a front for hating Mexicans.
Secure The Border
One of the favorite phrases used by politicians is “secure the border first.” As a matter of legislative bargaining, of course, it’s entirely reasonable to demand that the other side put X in a bill, or maybe even pass X into law, before moving on to Y. That’s part of the give and take of sausage-making.
Again, the border will never be 100% secure. You can argue for particular policies including a fence, an increase in the size of the Border Patrol and in the tactics it is approved to use, or interior-enforcement mechanisms like e-Verify; realistically, we are unlikely even to have an agreed-upon, objective standard for when and whether the border is “secure”. If we had solid, real-time data about border crossings, we’d be better at stopping them. Specific improvements can be demanded, but any policy enacted must accept the reality that some level of border insecurity will always be with us.
Big Boy Legislation
So much of immigration law is a devil-in-the-details business. Everyone is seemingly in favor of reforming immigration laws, but there are huge and real disagreements about what “reform” means. The only political justification for rolling every subject – border enforcement, path to legalization and/or citizenship, guest workers, H-1B visas – into a single bill is the theory that a comprehensive compromise is more likely to pass than a bill on one or another specific subject that does not have something for every faction.
The problem with this theory is that it is belied by political reality. “Comprehensive reform” didn’t pass when we had a Republican president and a Democratic House and Senate. It didn’t pass when we had a Democratic president, a Democratic House and a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate. It hasn’t passed with a Democratic president, a Republican House and a Democratic Senate. And there’s no particular reason to think it stands a better chance of passing with a Democratic president, a Republican House and a Republican Senate (if the GOP gains the Senate this fall) or even if the GOP were to win back all three branches in 2016.
Punch or Massage?
Tone and presentation of arguments are critical in this debate. It is always most effective to write and speak, on any issue, with an eye towards persuading people who may be undecided on an issue that yours is the most reasonable and humane position.
Hispanic and Asian voters in particular tend to view the really hard-line rhetoric on this issue, the people who talk about “invaders”, the people who have a problem even with private charity aiding children and teenagers stranded at the border, as driven by racism. Fair or not, when the loudest voices in your movement have that effect, they should reconsider what they are doing, because facts or no facts, law or no law, in a democracy, one man and the truth are lonely drinking buddies.