President Obama is planning to push Congress to start discussing a complete reform of the immigration system, which central goal is to be to legalize the status of approximately 12 million illegal aliens now in the country.
This should be a surprise to no one. Both he and Senator John McCain basically agreed on amnesty for illegal aliens. The only question was about border security. Republicans have been steadfast in their belief that the border must be relatively secure before any legalization of immigrants can occur. Democrats by and large have opposed the increases in border security. Until recently, most in Congress opposed increased border guards and barriers along the Mexican border, although there has been a slight shift in those opinions since the increasing drug violence across in Mexico.
This will start a political firestorm. The public actually was largely against the McCain-Bush proposal for amnesty two years ago. Democrats will likely push a similar bill, that will be slightly more in favor of illegal immigrants. That is unlikely to shift popular sentiment. Republicans and moderate Democrats understand a simple fact: amnesty is not a popular solution. And this is even more so in the light of the current recession.
I still support a basic framework for immigration reform, which is practical, and frankly the only solution I can envision working:
- Significantly enhance border security, both with manpower and with technical tools. The border must be secure, otherwise we will again have an illegal immigrant problem a generation from now.
- Provide a path to legal residence for illegal immigrants. I am not sure that people that broke the law deserve citizenship; others that break immigration laws are virtually banned from ever gaining citizenship, why should illegal immigrants be any different? That said, there must be a way to make this group of people green card holders. Maybe fines and other penalties will have to be part of the solution.
That is it. Seems relatively logical enough, no? Of course, no one said politics was rational.
It will be almost impossible to garner Republican votes for this measure, especially if there is not strict border security regulations that would be implemented first. But even moderate Democrats, such as the forty or members of the Democratic Blue Dogs who represent districts that voted for John McCain last year, to vote for any liberal proposal.