Thursday, February 7, 2013

A step forward, or putting a foot down against, immigration reform

I’m not quite sure what to think of the remarks of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who earlier this week said he now thinks his congressional colleagues should work with President Barack Obama on several issues.
CANTOR: Friend? Or foe?

Including immigration reform.

HAVE THE GOP ideologues “seen the light,” a la Jake Blues? Or is this just an attempt to keep the larger goal of a serious reform of our nation’s immigration policies from ever being truly implemented?

It stinks of the latter. Although I’d like to think it has a touch of the former. Who’s to say.

Specifically, I’m referring to a talk Cantor gave to the American Enterprise Institute, where he said deficit reduction (as in cutting programs that benefit people the Republican partisans could care less about) has to remain a priority.

But he said issues such as immigration could use change, as he said he could now support some form of the DREAM Act – that measure that takes young people who have lived the bulk of their lives in this country and are fully assimilated and gives them the chance to gain actual citizenship.

EVEN THOUGH THEIR parents may not have it, and may have brought them in without anything resembling a valid visa. As Cantor put it, “one of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents.”

True enough!

But I couldn’t help but notice in the news reports about Cantor’s comments that he has his “conditions,” so to speak, for support for DREAM.

They include more security measures along the U.S./Mexico border, more use of the e-Verify program that often mistakes fully legitimate U.S. citizens for aliens and can cost them employment, and the creation of a “guest worker” program to provide for businesses that want more people to actually do work.

I’LL ADMIT THAT Cantor didn’t phrase it like that. He tried using much more neutral language. I’m just being more honest about his intentions. And those of many of the other ideologues who are now feeling some need to tone down their rhetoric.

Their basic goal hasn’t changed. They want to view this as a problem that focuses on Mexico, and one that needs to be combatted.

Because while DREAM might allow the children to eventually have a legitimate, open immigration status in this country, it will do nothing for the entire family. Which means it exacerbates the current, flawed situation that creates families where some are “legal” and others aren’t.

And as for all those conditions, they’re just meant to ensure that nobody else ever gets the long-range goal of residency, as in the ability to be thought of as a “resident alien” (in Immigration jargon) rather than an “illegal” one.

WHICH MAKES THIS talk of supporting the DREAM seem like a weak, dinky little gesture – one meant to ensure that as few people as possible are allowed to benefit.

For any serious reform of our immigration policies is going to have to accept that the bulk of those roughly 11 million non-citizens now suspected of living in this country without a valid visa are capable of making a worthwhile contribution to the country.

And that no matter how many times and at how loud a volume they screech and scream the word “Amnesty!,” there’s really no legitimate reason for keeping them out.

Except that in many cases, their work ethic is intense enough (just think of some of the crummy jobs they’re doing) that they make many U.S.-born “real Americans” (or so they think) look downright lazy by comparison.


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