This article originally appeared on PolicyMic on 13 September 2011
Every elected official regardless of party agrees we need comprehensive immigration reform and increased border protection. The difference lies in exactly what this means to them. The subject is a multifaceted collection of several issues, with legal migration, border protection, and what to do with illegal immigrants already in America. Our elected leaders on both sides have done an excellent job of making such a muddle of the issue that they have succeeded only in confusing Americans and seem confused themselves.
Partisan politics have gotten in the way. The Dream Act was once heartily supported by many in the GOP, but in their efforts to oppose President Barack Obama at every turn they have turned against it. Many liberals are guilty of falsely pulling the race card in opposition to efforts to strengthen border protections, despite it being an apparent and legitimate security interest. What is needed on this issue, like many others, is a little bit of sanity from both sides, in Washington and outside.
The Dream Act allows people who entered the U.S. illegally who have since learned English and either served in the military or completed a degree to stay in the country, putting them on the path to citizenship. These are the type of immigrants we need in America. It does not offer an open door to millions of new illegal immigrants; it is only for those who are already here and have shown a commitment to becoming socially and economically productive Americans. Illegal immigration is illegal, but it is not unreasonable, and in fact it is beneficial to allow the few that fit within this category to remain. Immigrants who pull themselves up by their bootstraps is part of the American story.
On the other side, strengthening border protection measures and stopping illegal crossings is a legitimate security concern for the U.S. and for any country. A country has a right to know and control who comes and goes from its borders. Increasing border protection isn’t racist or oppressive; it is a genuine national security concern. Besides, concerns about terrorism, drugs, weapons, and violence that straddle our southern border are real. But strengthening our border doesn’t just mean with Mexico; it also means our northern border, sea ports, international airports, and thousands of miles of unguarded coastlines. It also means that we’re going to have to pay for it.
Unless 100% Native American, all our ancestors came here from another country. Most of them came legally, some involuntarily. I’m married to an immigrant and I’ve migrated to other countries for work or school myself. We’ve always followed the rules. It is understandable that others want to come to America for a better life. However, the government has a responsibility to protect the people, citizens or immigrants, who are already here. America is a land of immigrants, but it is also a land of laws that we all need to follow. A little bit of sanity in how we apply them is not too much to ask.