I've been troubled by U.S. immigration policy for most of my political life. In 2006, my very first post for this blog was a discussion of immigration in the United States. The furor surrounding Arizona's new immigration law certainly had me thinking about the subject again. Then yesterday, on the day Arizona's ridiculous law came into semi-effect, I read that Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) is considering introduction of a Constitutional amendment that will eliminate birthright citizenship.
What have we become?
Though I have nothing but condemnation for the approach Arizona takes in their law, I am sympathetic to the idea that the federal government has let down the states when it comes to immigration. I am not particularly concerned about enforcement, per se, since I believe that we should return to the open-door immigration policy that made us the land of opportunity. I will oppose with all my might a Constitutional amendment to eliminate birthright citizenship. In the meantime, with the exception of Graham's dangerous proposal, Congress has dodged responsibility on this issue. It's time for us to contact Congress and demand that they lead and address some of the most pressing issues related to immigration.
For one thing, the current Congressional failure has resulted in a myriad of deeply troubling developments. Illegals who arrive as children may receive an education but when they graduate high school, no matter how accomplished they are, they may not be able to attend college because they can't qualify for the federal financial aid that is available to their peers. And they can't get a job for lack of a few documents. Should they find a way to make it through college, they graduate with skills and a college diploma, at home in a nation that will not treat them like the citizens they clearly are.
Undocumented workers labor in a world of scant regulation of labor practices, unable to complain about any poor treatment they endure for fear that a complaint will result in deportation from the $3 an hour job that keeps their head just above water. Fear of deportation keeps these same vulnerable people from getting driver's licenses or reporting the crimes committed against them. A sick illegal resident may receive emergency treatment because by law hospitals cannot turn them away. But chronic health conditions are unlikely to receive treatment, thus shortening the life-spans of these hardworking people.
These problems are just the tip of the iceberg. Enough.
Let's be the nation that the Declaration of Independence promises we will be. Let's fulfill the pledge of the Statue of Liberty. Let's demand that Congress take action to arrange an amnesty program for the illegals who are here now. Let's figure out a way to open our borders and additional citizenship rights for others who come here seeking the historic opportunities our ancestors sought for themselves and passed down to us via birthright citizenship. Let's discuss this seriously without hyperbole and fear of the other. Let's understand, respect and embrace the reality that we are a nation of immigrants. And most importantly, let's quit pretending that this problem will go away on its own.