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December 11, 2006

Less Rhetoric and More Substance on Immigration: The Midterm Elections and Prospects for Comprehensive Reform

By Benjamin Johnson, Director of the Immigration Policy Center, November 2006;

"Anyone who has been keeping close tabs on the immigration debate in Washington over the last five years can attest to the fact that it has all of the ingredients for the perfect political storm. For starters, U.S. immigration laws are so arcane that only a handful of legislators truly understand them. As a result, many policy makers search for simple, sound-bite driven solutions to problems that are far too complex for quick fixes. The complexity of the issue is made even more difficult by the fact that the immigration issue is not easily defined by party labels. Supporters and opponents of various immigration proposals come from both parties and span the political spectrum. This makes it difficult for party leaders to determine where, when, and how to discuss the issue. Finally, and perhaps most destructively, the topic of immigration evokes intense emotions that are easily stirred by politicians and pundits who play to the fears and insecurities of the electorate rather than deal with the issue honestly and pragmatically. It is the emotional nature of the debate that really has whipped the political winds into a fury over the last five years.

The failure of anti-immigration politicians to ride their emotional storm to victory in the midterm elections could set the stage for the new Congress to find a workable solution to the immigration troubles we face. Public relations gimmicks such as fences and walls along the border are likely to emerge again; but we also are more likely to see serious proposals to provide better and more efficient channels of legal immigration that fit with the economic realities of our times. We may also see the emergence of a long overdue debate about the steady erosion of due process protections for non-citizens and the complete absence of any national policy to facilitate the integration process for these new members of our communities. With any luck, the new composition of Congress may also set the stage for serious debate on a myriad of social and economic issues that, in the past, have falsely been linked to immigration. Blaming immigration for the nation’s shrinking middle class, stagnant wages, rising health care costs and dysfunctional schools has been a diversionary tactic that enabled last year’s Congress to avoid its responsibility for solving these problems. The early agenda announced by the incoming House Democratic leadership suggests that next year Congress may be more willing to face these problems for what they are: social and economic issues independent of immigration. Successfully separating these issues from the immigration debate raises the prospects for truly confronting these issues and for moving forward on comprehensive immigration reform".


Posted by VisaLawyer at December 11, 2006 08:43 AM


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