No one is pleased with the current immigration system.
Literally, no one.
Employers aren’t pleased with how long it takes to hire foreign workers, or with the lack of available visas to do so. Enforcement hawks and the Tea Party crowd aren’t pleased with unauthorized border crossings and document fraud that sometimes accompany unauthorized work. Families and friends of immigrants aren’t pleased when they find out that seemingly arbitrary rules, bars, limits, and procedures often separate loved ones for many years, sometimes permanently.
When debating health care policy, there are those who say, “Do not touch the system that we have! It is the best health care in the world!” While you may disagree with them on the merits, at least the status quo has its defenders. The same cannot be said for immigration. Who could possibly stand by the system in place?
And so we’re forced to confront this problem, and to do so within the parameters of the really existing world. This means that fanciful, unimplementable ideas must be left by the way side. For example:
- We’re not going to deport, or force “self-deportation” upon 11 million people. This is an idea that might exist within the headspace of certain politically or socially radical individuals, but again, we must deal with the real, actually existing world. Even if the dollars and infrastructure existed to arrest, detain, prosecute, and deport 11 million people, the practical implications would be untenable.
- There will be no “amnesty.” Immigrants who have violated immigration laws will pay fines, wait in lines, and be subject to background checks. Not everyone will qualify for whatever status might be provided. Felons, repeat offenders, and those who present a “danger to society” will be deported.
And so many powerful interests must come to the table to negotiate, debate, compromise, and move steadily away from the universally-despised status quo. The Senate bill is not perfect. There are plenty of nose-scrunching provisions for both conservatives and progressives alike. But one thing is clear: it takes us incrementally towards a more fair and just system for all.
- Undocumented immigrants will be forced to pay a fine for their immigration violations and be subjected to a background check. People pay fines and penalties all the time for their illegal behavior so they can get right with the law. The Senate bill would give undocumented immigrants the same chance.
- The Senate bill recognizes that undocumented immigrants are more than just “illegals.” In fact, many industries depend on their hard, unappreciated work. It provides a pathway to legalization and citizenship for more than 7 million people, placing a premium on family unity and compassion.
The Senate bill is imperfect, and the House of Representatives has a perfect chance to make favorable adjustments and proposals of their own. Instead, they seem poised to take the one indefensible position in all of this, which is to embrace the status quo. The merits of any given proposal can be debated, nit-picked, dissected, and criticized, but there is no defense for doing nothing.