Joe Boyles: Guest Columnist
No problem that besets our lawmakers in Washington is more difficult, more vexing than immigration. Both sides of the political divide have very strident, entrenched views on how to resolve this long-standing dispute. Democrats are determined to provide legalization and a pathway for citizenship to so-called “Dreamers,” minors who came to this country under a program now known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Republicans, led by the president, want (southern) border security reinforced, including a physical barrier, to prevent future illegal immigration.
For those of us who sit on the sidelines in heartland America, the solution to this conundrum seems pretty obvious – compromise – ‘give a little; take a little.’ Since Democrats control the 60-vote super-majority threshold in the Senate, they are going to get some deal that includes their hopes and desires; but in turn, they need to give something to their political opponents who control all the levers of government…at least for now.
But, if you watched last Tuesday’s State of the Union (SOTU) address like I did, you saw precious little, if any, indication of compromise on the part of Democrats, or at least, their elected leaders. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi scowled and ground her teeth the entire proceeding. At times, it seemed that Democratic leaders were against American success, or at least anything attributable to their arch-enemy Donald Trump, such as when members of the Congressional Black Caucus sat on their hands when the president announced that Black unemployment had dropped to its lowest level in recorded history. (The notable exception was our Congressman Al Lawson who alone applauded this milestone.)
Democrats would counter that the president didn’t offer any compromise to them, but that storyline is largely discounted. Repeatedly, he spoke to the idea of both sides coming together to resolve long-standing disputes for the good of our country, but it would seem to no avail.
Trump took the unprecedented step of proposing a compromise solution before the SOTU, addressing the ‘dreamers’ and both legal and illegal immigration. For ‘dreamers,’ his proposal would offer a pathway for citizenship for 1.8 million. In turn, he wants our southern border secured, largely with a physical barrier and two forms of legal immigration halted or curtailed -- the visa lottery program and chain migration.
Since the last two terrorist attacks in New York City in 2017 were the product of these two immigration programs, you would think there would be some sort of agreement to amend these forms of immigration to prevent further bloodshed, but apparently not. Perhaps some see this as a form of collateral damage and ‘the cost of doing business.’
The visa lottery program is about thirty years old and is designed to increase immigration from nations which are underrepresented in the United States. It is a legacy program that is in need of an overhaul. Chain migration is the concept of one immigrant being able to sponsor other family members into the United States. Trump wants to curtail this program to only permit nuclear family members to immigrate. There are serious questions about how well security background checks clear those who enter the US under either program.
It seems as if the Democrats have dug in their heels and will not permit a compromise with the president and his position. The theory is they are too beholden to their base of support which insists on a “clean” DACA bill with no quarter given to Republicans. If that position is untenable, then no bill is better than a tainted bill, and the Dreamers will be sacrificed for the sake of an election issue in the Fall.
This brings up the whole solution vs. issue debate. It is a sad state of affairs, in my opinion, when politicians are willing to sacrifice a solution to a problem in order to use the issue to hammer their opponents in the upcoming election. So much for working across the aisle. This is why so many voters in heartland American are disgusted with Washington and its ways.
Trump is dug-in on his plan to build a physical barrier to protect our southern border from the scourge of illegal immigration, including drug smuggling, human trafficking, terrorist infiltration, etc. Will the wall cover all 2200 miles of southern border with Mexico? No, but it is unnecessary in places which are too remote, and border security can be relatively assured by virtual means.
The Democrats say that a wall is unnecessary and doesn’t work while Republicans feel otherwise. Who is right? The president has sought out the experts – the US border agents. They are informing him of the best position which is a powerful platform. Who is informing the Democrats? What facts are they relying on to support their position?