DOTHAN, AL, January 28, 2013 — It looks like the US Senate finally decided to return to work and, if they are not careful, they run the risk of actually accomplishing something. A bi-partisan group of eight senators, four Democrats and four Republicans, just issued a brief, 4-page proposal to address the issue of illegal immigration.
Because there are Republicans in the group, including Senator Rubio of Florida, the tone of the mainstream media is already defensive. The committee has been dubbed the Gang of Eight and just about everything they have done so far is apparently wrong or questionable. Most every news report describes the proposal as incomplete or full of loopholes. Hey folks, this is the same Senate that hasn’t offered a budget in four years, stop complaining.
In the world of project management, the expression “put a stake in the ground” is often used to describe efforts of a team to find a starting point. Team effort is not something widely practiced in Washington, but I give credit to this group of senators for at least trying to get something started. The usual suspects in the Democratic Party are upset that this proposal might upstage President Obama, who has been on the verge of announcing something major for the past four years.
The topic of illegal immigration is of special interest here in the land of cotton. The state of Alabama was sued for enacting its own immigration law after Washington basically refused to enforce existing federal laws. Local people I have spoken to are very grateful for all the advice from well-meaning federal officials on how to run their affairs. However, some believe those officials should adopt a different anatomical posture in order to improve their hearing and vision.
Some of the major proposed changes from the Gang of Eight include:
— Establishing a path to citizenship for illegals already in the country, contingent on first securing borders. No details are given on what “securing borders” really means. Some Democrats will interpret that as greeting immigrants with flowers and explaining federal aid programs. Some Republicans, at least those in border states, may prefer it mean shoot on sight.
— Reforming the immigration system. This could mean almost anything, but the paper recommends preferential treatment, including green cards, to immigrants with degrees from American universities. The idea of attracting educated, bilingual immigrants is pretty radical for our “new normal” society, but it might just work.
— Improving employment verification to ensure American companies are not hiring illegally. While Democrats may see this as some kind of human rights violation, it could bring in more payroll taxes to pay for deficits from providing services to illegal immigrants. It’s complicated.
— Setting up an agricultural worker program. It’s hard to understand why there is such a shortage of farm labor in times when unemployment rates are high, but it happens. The senators propose opening up jobs to immigrants if employers can prove no American workers are available. That should be fairly easy since unemployed Americans can be picky about the type of work they will accept.
If anyone is curious why immigration has become such a hot button with politicians, according to The Congressional Budget Office foreign-born immigrants make up 12.5% of the entire population of the United States. That is the highest percentage since the period 1860 to 1910 when the massive influx of mostly Europeans kept the rate fairly consistent between 12% and 15%. After 1910 the trend took a sharp downturn until the 1980s.
Other government reports indicate the influx of immigrants, including illegals, has slowed over the past few years. Still, 12.5% of the entire population is well over 37 million people and that makes a pretty attractive target for politicians. The Democrats figured this out a while ago. Republicans are finally waking up since getting stung in the last election.
The debate over immigration has unfortunately taken on a “what’s fair” tone that muddles up the picture. It is hard to believe that anyone in America wants to deliberately inflict suffering on anyone, but most illegal immigrants arrive without money, skills or education and can’t speak English. Political correctness dictates that forcing this group to assimilate would be unfair, so America should change to accommodate them. That is the real crux of what many American citizens are upset about.
To many, the situation is like feeding birds in the park. Someone sits on a bench with a bag of crumbs and starts feeding birds that come close by. Then more and more birds show up and before long the person on the bench is overwhelmed and has to leave the park. Democrats would suggest the park visitor should carry extra bags of crumbs to feed all the birds. Republicans would chase the birds out or even close the entire park.
Frankly, the whole situation is for the birds. Yes, I know I should be embarrassed for using such a bad pun, but the point is valid that America cannot accommodate everyone who wants to migrate here.
It’s about time to do more than just change the phrase “illegal alien” to “undocumented immigrant.” It’s about time to help, not sue, border and rural states that take the brunt of the immigration problem. It’s about time for Congress and the White House to enforce existing laws and restore some faith in the federal government.
Last but not least, it’s about time for dinner and there’s an interesting new Mexican restaurant that just opened up nearby.
(Be sure to get The Backstory and more on Rick’s author blog at www.ricktownley.com)
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