Immigration Issues Illustrate Ills in Washington [Hub Debate]

Over 50,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended in the U.S. this year, the vast majority from Central America. A dangerous journey from their home countries through Mexico into the U.S., becomes a risk they are willing to take. Michael Chow and David Wallace/The Republic
Over 50,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended in the U.S. this year, the vast majority from Central America. A dangerous journey from their home countries through Mexico into the U.S., becomes a risk they are willing to take.
Michael Chow and David Wallace/The Republic

[7-23-2014: Updated to better reflect Hispanic voting]

The news channels have picked up the drumbeat. Images of tired, dirty hungry children wandering lost inside the U.S. and Mexico border. Makeshift camps and established shelters filled to capacity with huddled masses. Stories of criminals, cartel members and human traffickers charging the impoverished years’ worth of wages and making false promises to lure many of the hopefuls to a supposed new life in America. People suffering, families broken apart.

The angles appealing to our general humanity are nearly endless. While the human element draws headlines, there are deeper issues in play. Lack of enforcement of current laws and questionable policy enforcement have contributed to the severity of the issue. And as some journalists seek to dig deeper a difficult picture begins to come into focus. Immigration may directly illustrate how the goals of a party have replaced the will of the people in Washington. The ills of partisan politics are on full display.

There are incongruous reports in the last few weeks of administrative neglect that have been present for some time. Budgetary capacities are not the most pressing problem. The fact that President Obama has requested almost $4 billion in aid, of which almost 95% are earmarks not aimed at solving the problem, has little to do with quelling the huge uptick in illegal immigration. This is not a problem solved with more funding.

It is becoming apparent that a systemic lack of enforcement of current laws are to blame. Large numbers of border patrol officers positioned twenty to forty miles inland from the border to facilitate “roundup” duty after illegals enter are one example. Setting deportation hearings to which only a small percentage of immigrants show up and failing to follow up, transporting refugees to other states without notification or permission, issuing orders for border patrol officers to back down and considering a general amnesty for illegals all suggest the Obama administration has a different agenda. And thus a widespread call for immigration reform. But what type of reform will be effective if current laws are willfully being ignored?

This issue clearly illustrates dysfunction on both sides of the aisle. The current Obama administration has overtly politicized this issue and has directed the rhetoric around humanitarian consequences. With the complicit support of the media showing the human toll of such activities, it is politically difficult for an opposing philosophy to sound or act tough in demanding reform. Thus, without enforcement of existing law and policy, the numbers flowing across the border with veiled promises of eventual amnesty increase. An organized legislative response from conservatives is difficult if it contains any provisions that could be portrayed across the media as inhumane, which almost any pointed action will surely be so labeled. So Washington stands basically still, despite the rhetoric, while the problem continues on unabated.

Republicans know that Hispanics vote strongly vote Democrat; three quarters for Obama in 2012 with significant impacts on voting demographics in California and New Mexico and with influence on swing states like Florida, Nevada and Colorado. With benefits and handouts to immigrants, both legal and illegal, it makes sense that such a political bloc will, if given the power, vote for the hand that feeds them. This seems to limit any comprehensive response from conservatives, who already fear that the country may be leaning further and further left as interim elections approach. A tough party line that would “clean house” would certainly alienate remaining voters who sympathize with the ethnic or humanitarian side of the issue.

There are currently benefits available to illegal immigrants revolving around health care, subsidized food, housing and even access to welfare and social security, which either exceed benefits or are simply unavailable to working, tax paying Americans. The full cost of processing and integrating illegals is significant and imposes substantial financial burden on an already deficit ridden system. Yet Washington responds at a glacial pace, if at all. Only an increased media outcry has begun to generate any directed action. This implies one of two possibilities. Either the current administration is completely incompetent, or there is a greater “hidden agenda”.

The fact that laws and policies have not been enforced might suggest incompetency. But as author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza recently reported in the making of his movie “America”, there may be purpose behind the madness. D’Souza reported that while they were interviewing border guards on site that cameras pointed across the border were picking up a large contingency of illegals attempting to cross into America. “What do you want me to do about this?” the officer asked his supervisor. “We have a large group crossing at point X.” The supervisor’s response was brief: “Move the camera.”

As disaffected members of the border patrol and others step forward in unison and report on frequent orders to ignore law and policy, the hidden agenda theory gains momentum. Political analysts from both sides of the aisle know that immigrants, whether legal and well integrated into the working, tax paying citizenry, or illegal and seeking eventual citizenship, are forming a large and powerful representative voting bloc. And this bloc has historically voted overwhelmingly Democrat. To allow a large flow of illegal immigration, build numbers into the millions and then petition for general amnesty is a cogent strategy to literally tip the voting numbers permanently, in a country that is currently divided evenly down the middle, in the favor of the Democratic Party. Some analysts have gone so far as to prognosticate that we may never have a conservative Republican president again in America if current trends continue.

If there is any credibility to this theory, and that evidence is mounting, then it points clearly to partisan politics trumping the interests and welfare of the country and her citizens. The average American does not likely want to see millions of illegal immigrants given handouts and a free pass when a more integrative process has existed for decades. The path to legal citizenship requires time, work and an educational element that would aid assimilation into American culture and productive society. It is not necessarily easy, but it gives immigrants a better chance at success. And, after all, it is a legal framework available to all who will take advantage of it. It is also difficult to see precious tax dollars funneled into a strategy funding benefits for illegals designed to maintain one party’s dominant position in the political landscape. If clearly understood, few citizens in either party would approve of such policies.

Is there room for reform? There are obviously ways to refine such a system. But will we be able to put rational policies in place that will represent the best intentions for the legal citizen and aspiring immigrant alike? Not if the extremes of partisanship continue to infect the process. To continue such non-enforcement does not benefit either existing citizens or illegal immigrants seeking a better start in life. It only seems to benefit the bolstering of liberal politics. And we need to ask the question, is such a benefit worth the detrimental costs to our country and society, as well as to individuals themselves?

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