Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Immigration Reform

Immigration has always created strange alliances and schisms. The labor wing of the Democratic party has always feared more open immigration; the internationalist/humanist wing has always favoured it. The business community has generally favoured it (cynics paint that as a simple ploy to access cheap and compliant labor); the far-right hate it, often barely disguising the racisim that drives their viewpoint. All of these views become infused with passion where illegals are concerned.

The simple truth is that we are not going to deport 11 million people, though we are managing to deport some, often destroying families in the process. We need to find a more compassionate and, at the same time, socially equitable way, to solve the problem of illegal immigrants. The President has always been consistent on this point. What is remarkable, though, is how the breakdown of this debate within the Republican party reveals the extent to which it has been hijacked by the forces of fear and hate. Republicans from both houses are proposing draconian and violent measures to punish, not only illegal immigrants, but anyone who is caught giving them aid and comfort. The language is little different than the language we used for countries that harboured terrorists.

The list of things that the President has gotten wrong is too long to belabour. The list of things he has gotten right is invisible. Until now. Where it comes to immigration reform, we have to give him credit for being right, and support in standing up to his own party on this issue.

A footnote: we recently learned that the man who has been cleaning our offices for 16 years is being deported. He worked like a dog for all those years, often holding three jobs at a time. He married and started a family. His daughter is a gifted student. He paid taxes. He kept our workplace immaculate, and was never angry or bitter. He learned everyones' names and greeted us as friends. He somehow saved enough from his minimum-wage jobs to buy a HOUSE! But he did not have papers. Instead, he had a lawyer who robbed him of a substanial part of his income while giving him almost comically bad advice. There are a lot of illegals who are not contributing to our communities. Instead of going after them, probably because it is too much trouble to track them down, the INS is going after a man who played by all the rules but one, and whose loss will hurt all of us. THAT is why we need reform.

Footnote 2 (Nov. 2006): The worst of the proposed laws was passed, and we wait to see whether the President has any capitall left to turn the tide back, on this, the one issue of his presidency where he was right.


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