COLUMBIA — It appears that an actual attempt at immigration reform is under serious consideration — sadly, about six years late.
An earlier effort, The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, strongly supported by then-President George W. Bush, failed in the Senate — doomed in part by Republican nonsupport and by Democrat reluctance to enable any kind of victory by Bush.
Of course, it was not perfect legislation; however, it was both timely and necessary and should have been kept alive and sent to the House of Representatives for consideration and reconciliation. Consequently, six years later, there has not only been no progress, but, in reality, a slide rearward.
Admittedly, there are strong feelings on this issue. They range from extremes of immediate paths to citizenship for all to declaring anything less than deportation (self or forced) to be "amnesty."
Led by the Senate's "Gang of Eight," who did the heavy lifting to get the current bill passed (68 to 32), it moves on to the House of Representatives.
Fate of bill uncertain
The immigration reform bill's future in the House is neither clear nor particularly rosy at this time. Roadblocks to its passage are the "wordiness" of the bill (1,000 plus pages), the Republican aim for border security first, strong tea party opposition and a healthy distrust of President Obama and the Democrats playing by the rules.
Nevertheless, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has indicated the House is ready to take up immigration reform. In so doing, the House intends to review measures already passed by the Judiciary and Homeland Security along with consideration of other immigration proposals to include the Senate passed bill.
It is not likely that Speaker John Boehner will take up the Senate bill in its entirety, instead he will look for measures the Republican majority can agree on. It is also unlikely that Boehner will bring an immigration bill to the floor without the support of the majority of the Republican conference — using the minority party to pass legislation is a delegation of responsibility — a no-no in any setting.
More than compromise
Immigration reform is a must, and, it will require certain compromise on both sides of the aisle. It will also require ingredients that have been lacking in this equation since 1986 — honesty, integrity and what is best for the country. Party be damned.
For immigration reform to come to fruition, a number of inalienable realities must override the long-time political gamesmanship that has maintained an unsustainable status quo for decades.
First, the estimated 11 million illegal aliens or undocumented workers (take your pick) are, for the most part, here to stay. They are not going to deport themselves voluntarily, be wished away nor deported forcefully. It is estimated that deportation of that number would require buses lined two abreast from the Canadian border to the Tijuana, Mexico, exit.
Second, the notion that the border can be effectively closed at reasonable cost is ludicrous. So long as there are jobs here that able-bodied Americans will not perform and are paid not to do so in the form of food stamps and various welfare stipends, those jobs will be taken by those who learn to foil our border security.
A fence is only as effective as those who physically guard it — hopefully, we have learned this much from our TSA experiment. Deploying the military along the border is a nonstarter for two reasons: posse comitatus renders it unlawful to use the armed forces in civilian law enforcement and to do so would destroy the military as an effective fighting force.
Finally — and this will win me few friends in my political persuasion — the constant message by talk show hosts, pundits and other diehards that "these illegals have broken our laws and must not be rewarded for it" is neither honorable nor compassionate.
Not criminal to want a job
To be sure, a minute number of them are drug dealers and criminals; however, the majority are simply individuals trying to support families. Originating from countries that don't offer food stamps, welfare, aid to dependent children, et al., the desire to feed one's children is hardly criminal in nature.
As long as there are jobs to be had in the U.S., I see neither logic nor common sense in naming those as greedy who hire those who want a job rather than those who simply wish for a paycheck.
That individual who will show up for a job and give a day's work for a day's pay is a better candidate for guest worker/citizenship than an American-born parasite who has learned to game the system.
Any reform of immigration will not please everyone — but, how long can we accept the embarrassment of abject futility?
J. Karl Miller is a retired colonel with the U.S. Marine Corps.