A curious bystander: immigration reform

Megan Chrisler

It seems as though President Obama decided to jump right into the most partisan issues in an already partisan government for his second term; first the fiscal cliff, then gun laws and now immigration reform.

As Frank Sharry, from the pro-immigration group America Voice, was quoted as saying, “He faced a pretty difficult tactical decision on whether he was going to introduce his own bill or stay back and respect the legislative process. I thought he did a pretty good job.”

His speech on immigration reform at Las Vegas, in which he introduced his goals for said program, includes giving a clearer route to citizenship for about 11 million illegal immigrants, increased border control, a compulsory system reviewing immigration statuses and a more efficient way to handle future currents of new citizens—a little something for both parties.

“The question is do we have the resolve as a people, as a country, as a government, to finally put this issue behind us? I believe that we do,” Obama said, giving a hopeful and moving anti-partisan statement. In fact, he warned Congress that if they started misbehaving again he would take their proposal away and make them vote on his (I wonder if Malia and Sasha have heard that one before?).

Even so, Obama has received criticism for bypassing some important issues of the proposal, such as when illegal immigrants can start applying for citizenship, the Republican-supported proposal of securing borders before illegal immigrants can obtain green cards and allowing same-sex partners to sponsor their significant other for their green cards. The last is not in the Senate proposal; Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, called it “a poison pill that would guarantee the whole thing would collapse.”

But would anti-homosexual groups go for the overhaul even if such a right wasn’t granted to same-sex couples? It is safe to say that many of those groups would lean Republican, and the Republicans don’t like the sound of 11 million illegal immigrants obtaining citizenship, homosexuals or no. Their argument: the government would be rewarding criminals who have illegally trespassed onto U.S. territory.

Technically, they are right: it is illegal to be in the U.S. without the proper paperwork. What is the incentive to maintain the law when the criminal is not being punished? And if you give citizenship to 11 million illegal immigrants, you’ll have to give citizenship to the rest of them. Why not just hand out citizenship applications at the border and not worry about its security? I mean, it’s not like there are a bunch of violent drug lords crossing the Rio Grande, right?

On the other hand, who says they actually want to become citizens, especially after accepting a humiliating position on the lowest rung of the social ladder (which is their only option)? Some probably just want to work here, not become die-hard America fans. For those who do want to become citizens, the system is crammed with inefficiency. America owes its aspiring citizens a fast and easy way to become one. There are also obvious worker abuses that need to be addressed, most prominently among Hispanic workers in the west. If those illegal immigrants were allowed citizenship, not only could they fight for their rights as working Americans, but they also could obtain better healthcare, education, and—perhaps a little harsh, but a legitimate concern in this economy—contribute taxes, and their children would pay it forward.

These are not the best summations of either argument, and I encourage readers to research the topic more thoroughly. This is at least a start. And as a starting point for Obama’s second term, it seems to be going relatively well. Republicans and Democrats are getting along much better this time around, with Republicans Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio, among others, supporting most of the Senate proposal (with some criticism from their party, of course). Nevertheless, NPR has reported the issue to be “the most contentious […] legislative fight looming in Congress.” Let us hope that they all remain good little girls and boys in Washington and play nicely, especially when future American citizens’ lives are at stake.