Late Friday evening, the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of comprehensive immigration reform. This came after the initial package was rejected by tea party Republicans.
The newest version will destroy President Obama’s “Dream Act,” potentially deporting about three-quarters-of-a-million immigrants who currently hold work permits.
This all comes as we approach the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The program was designed to allow the children of undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States under certain conditions.
According to the American Immigration Council: “This initiative, announced on June 15, 2012, offers a two-year, renewable reprieve from deportation to unauthorized immigrants who are under the age of 31; entered the United States before age 16; have lived continuously in the country for at least five years; have not been convicted of a felony, a “significant” misdemeanor, or three other misdemeanors; and are currently in school, graduated from high school, earned a GED, or served in the military.”
As the president has said many times, these children, men and women only know the United States as home. They are, at least on the surface, Americans.
This country has had problems with immigration since its founding. John Adams’ 1798 Alien and Sedition Act required that an immigrant have 14 years of residency prior to gaining citizenship. It also allowed for the deportation of “dangerous” immigrants.
1819 saw the first comprehensive federal laws concerning immigration. 1864 legislation permitted the hiring of foreign contract labor. By 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited the immigration of Chinese until 1892 and barred Chinese immigrants from becoming citizens.
Over the years, this list included Irish, Catholics, Jews, Japanese and those of color.
Fast forward to 1986, and Ronald Reagan’s Immigration Reform and Control Act gave amnesty for many illegal aliens while providing sanctions for employers hiring illegals. In 1989 we gave special standing to “non-immigrant” registered nurses who had lived in the U.S. for at least three years.
Today it is children from Central and South America. The tea party activists are calling it an “invasion.” It appears they do not see the humanitarian issues involved. They just want to blame the Obama administration.
The “just deport them” attitude of the conservative GOP movement is neither helpful nor humanitarian. They are not caring about the children, but, using war metaphors, claim there is something sinister about the recent movement of children across thousands of miles to find a better and safer home in the United States.
Isn’t that the reason for the immigration movements since the settlers in Plymouth?
The House ultra-conservative GOP is claiming victory in the immigration reform race. It is not. The bill they proposed simply does away with any reasonable attempt through our legal system for children to find hope for a future without the threat of violence and poverty.
What I find most disturbing is the attempt to militarize the border by adding $35 million to reimburse states for deploying National Guard troops, such as Texas’ Gov. Perry did last month.
The building of fences and walls, the addition of the military and our southern border look no different than 1950s Berlin or modern-day Israel. But, as we have seen over the years, walls do not keep people out (or in), and there will always be a resourceful few who can find the holes.
A real comprehensive plan discusses what will be done with the almost 12 million undocumented individuals living and working in the United States now. (By the way, that is down by about 1 million since 2007.)
Many of the adults are working, paying taxes, supporting our economy and doing the jobs that Americans find repugnant. It will cost us a lot more than $650 million to identify and deal with the men, women and children, provide detention centers — that no one wants in their backyard — and return them to their countries of origin.
“Just kick them out” is not an answer. It is a reaction to the influx of new and younger immigrants traveling to the U.S.
The 17 percent increase in juvenile illegal immigrants alone is a humanitarian crisis, and we need more than thrown-together-at-the-last-minute legislation to fix the problems.
We need a comprehensive package.
David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He writes a weekly column for the Missourian.