Immigration left unsolved by politics

Guest Columnist

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At the conclusion of the 2004 presidential election, President George W. Bush stated his intended use of newly gained political capital to push forward with his second-term agenda. As part of his domestic agenda, Bush envisioned a bipartisan effort to reform Social Security and the implemention of a temporary guest worker program. This guest worker proposal would supposedly put the nation’s between 10 and 12 million illegal immigrants on track toward permanent legal status, eventually leading to citizenship.

Bush is now using the pocket-change capital he received from the “51 percent mandate” to press Congress for Social Security reform. Once all his capital is spent on this inevitable failure, he’ll seek an additional mandate from the GOP to press for the guest worker program. Unfortunately for the president, illegal immigration is already on the fast track to becoming the latest hot-button issue, with Republicans in Congress split over the guest worker program and the Bush administration’s failure to tackle the border issue head-on.

A significant number of Congressional Republicans are especially fed up with the administration’s lack of effort in proposing genuine immigration reform. Instead, the Bush administration is paying lip service to Mexican President Vicente Fox and the Latino voting bloc to draw in more right-wing support. Moderate members of Congress, state governments, and interest groups from both sides of the aisle are insisting that politics and ideology be put aside if immigration reform is really to occur.

The problem with considering illegal immigration an important domestic issue is that political ideology will more than likely swamp the issue and leave it in a stalemate. Fortunately, religion is not as big a factor in immigration reform as it is in other touchy political issues. Naturally though, partisan politicians in Washington are reluctant to approach immigration because of strict ideological stances, as well as the consequences they might face for approaching illegal immigration head on.

First, there are those who, politically, only see with their left eye open. They see immigration reform as racist, fascist, or extremist. As California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nu?ez said, “(Immigration reform closes) our borders to commerce and culture.” This approach to immigration reform has significantly slowed down the process, simply because no rational thinking or compromising approach is applied, and a simple label like “extremist measure” is attached to any bill that somehow restricts the flow of immigration. With that said, the liberal approach is not helping solve this problem.

Additionally, there are those who only see politics through their right eye. They see any type of border reform outside the status quo as only hurting their supporters, who often use cheap labor as a means to expand their businesses’ profits. These are the main supporters of Bush’s plans, since the cheap labor flow will remain, and a Department of Motor Vehicles-like bureaucracy will emerge to add delay to the documentation process, ultimately leaving immigration problems unsolved with lots more bureaucratic red tape. With that said, the conservative approach is not helping to solve the problem, either.

Finally, there are lawmakers who see perfectly, with both eyes wide open, and know when issues like border security need their immediate attention. Representatives like Tom Tancredo, a Republican from Colorado, are willing to break partisanship, tackle the border issue by the horns and finally wrestle it to the ground, despite the guilt sheath (and labeling) from leftists, backlash from special interests, pressure from lobbyists, and the conservative partisan obligation that the Bush administration seeks. These are the lawmakers who have the United States’ best interests in mind when it comes to border safety, as they are the only ones who will move past the partisan finger pointing and enact legislation that will genuinely secure our borders.

Congress has recently taken a very small step in the right direction in terms of border security. The “Real ID” provision passed under the $82 billion supplemental funding bill will add a small layer of security to our border, and will prevent driver license bills from taking the focus off other issues in state legislatures, especially here in California. Unfortunately, it does nothing to address the real issue of the necessity to cut the flow of illegal border crossings. However, it will perhaps prevent terrorists and illegal immigrants from seeking driver licenses with fraudulent documents. For now it’s a wet Band-Aid on an issue that needs emergency surgery.

The consequence of Congress remaining polarized and recalcitrant on the issue of illegal immigration and border security will slow the genuine progress of this nation. Centrists know that finding fair ground and a good compromise is difficult, but the reasonable voices in Congress, state legislatures, and interest groups will inevitably have to press for a comprehensive resolution on immigration, with the United States’ interest in safer borders finally being held above the ideological rhetoric from leaders at both ends of the political spectrum.

Brett Ralston is a senior political science major.