The immigration debate: The good, the bad, and the ugly – and suggestions

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This post is an extension of the thoughts I expressed in this one, which I wrote a few days ago.

I think the Republican party has lost its collective mind. I don’t think I’ve ever been more ashamed to be a Republican than I have been after these last few weeks. Why? I’m appalled at some of the rhetoric, tactics, blatant hypocrisy, and pot-calling-the-kettle-black that has been on display on both sides of the conservative aisle on the immigration issue, and I say this as someone who isn’t in any side’s “camp” but is just frustrated on the whole with how the debate was conducted. And before I really get going on this, let me just say that I know that not everyone who argued for or against this bill is guilty of what I’m about to discuss, but it was far more than just the ‘fringe’ in the Republican party who made the Nutroots look like bastions of civility and maturity by comparison. Also, I will be using the terms “we” “us” “let’s” “our” quite a bit in general, and should not be construed into meaning “all.” I’m well aware there are exceptions to the rule.

The issue of illegal immigration, as we all know by now, is one of the most – if not the most – hotly debated issues in the country and has been even since before the President was elected back in 2000. Understandably emotions run high no matter who’s talking about it, because not only is it considered a cultural issue, but a national security issue, too. The debates primarily consist of but are not limited to what to do with the estimated 12 million illegals we already have here (deport ’em all? Jail ’em?), what to do about the ones pouring over our borders and draining our resources and, as some say, steal our jobs, how to more effectively secure our borders in order to keep potential terrorists out of our country, and how to strengthen our existing laws against illegals who will come here.

I don’t question the good intentions the conservatives who opposed this bill had/have, nor did I oppose the calls to contact and put pressure on Congressional representatives from both the House and Senate to oppose this bill. As citizens of this great country, it is our right and duty to get involved in the democratic process and that includes writing and calling our Congressional reps when we’re in favor of something, as well as letting them know when we oppose something. As our representatives, they have an idea of how we feel on the issues in general, but if we don’t let them know how we feel on certain key controversial issues, they’re going to cast their votes without that knowledge in mind. It is fascinating to see how this country’s government works when the citizens of it actually take an active role in trying to inject change on issues that are important to them. Generations ago, men died for our right to play active, not passive, roles in our government, so it is vital for the survival of our nation that we not take that right for granted.

By the same token, I don’t question the president’s good intentions on wanting to pass ‘comprehensive immigration reform.’ He came into the WH after being a two-term governor of the border state of Texas, and it wasn’t exactly a secret that he was in favor of naturalization then, so the positions he’s taken on the issue of illegal immigration have not been a shock to me, nor should they have been to anyone else. To accuse the President of ‘betrayal’ on this issue when his position should have been well-known from the getgo is baffling to me.

What I despised, deplored, and was disgusted by throughout all this was the way conservatives treated each other as it related to disagreements over this issue. There were strong arguments for and against this bill, but lost in all that was the need to “one up” the opposition, whether it was Senator Graham foolishly accusing the bill’s opponents of being “bigots”, the President wrongly questioning the patriotism of conservative critics or people like Tom Tancredo and others like him claiming that anyone who didn’t oppose every aspect of this bill “had to be” a proponent of “open borders” and “shamnesty” and were, essentially, “traitors” to their country for “not wanting to secure its borders.” Incidentally, Tom Tancredo is a guy I do not respect, considering he’s not just against illegal immigration, but he’s against legal immigration as well.1 Tancredo is popular with many on the anti-immigration bill side, and I hope to see more denounciations of his suggestion in the immediate future. Of course, I have to wonder how many Tancredo supporters agree with that sentiment, especially since he’s been expressing it for a few years now and has maintained his popularity amongst staunch immigration bill opponents. Oh, and let’s not forget the calls for impeachment from Michael Savage and Pat Buchanan, either. Along with that, there’s at least one full thread devoted to Bush’s impeachment not at the Daily Kos or the usual Nutroot hangouts … but the Free Republic. This is insanity.

Conservatives talk all the time about how liberals shouldn’t whine about “hurt feelings” and tell them they need to “suck it up” but deep down, conservatives, too, are very passionate about what they believe in and they get hurt and angry when members of their own party start insulting them over policy disagreements. It’s not wimpy to be honest by admitting that. And let’s not pretend that the insulting only started once President and key members of the administration started badmouthing opponents of this bill. It’s been going on for a while now, because the immigration issue can’t seem to get resolved in Congress no matter how often its brought up, because it’s so contentious and the warring factions can’t come to an agreement as to what the final bill should look like because so many people involved in the debate are “all or nothing” types. I can’t count the number of times over the years I’ve seen accusations towards the President of of “being in bed with the Mexican president” by other conservatives, calling the president “Jorge,” putting his face on the Mexican peso, assertions that the president is a ‘sell-out’ and ‘apparently doesn’t care about national security’ which is total BS, because he’s taken a lot of crap from the usual suspects on the left about the Patriot Act, Gitmo, warrantless wiretapping – you name it. Just about every measure the President has taken in order to reduce the chances of another attack on our soil has been vilified by the left. He’s been accused of going ‘too far’ so let’s not kid ourselves by thinking that because he doesn’t take the typical conservative view on illegal immigration, that he’s not concerned about our national security.

Our best chance to get a remotely meaningful immigration bill has passed because we no longer have control of Congress and likely won’t for years to come. Sure, under the Republican Congress the issue didn’t get resolved the last time it came up but we still would have stood a better shot at getting even a halfway decent bill had Republicans maintained control of Congress. As it stands, they didn’t, so we’re stuck with what we have now: A Democratic House we have little to no control over, and a Democratic Senate that has more often than not been gridlocked, thanks in large part to the leadership of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who, in spite of his woefully ignorant comment about “I don’t think there’s a single member of either party next year who is going to fail to be re-elected over this [immigration] issue,” has been a solid rock in the Senate by playing Senate Majority Harry Reid like a fiddle. I disagree with anyone, including my friend John Hawkins, who believes that because of one ignorant comment by McConnell, that he’s “mediocre” and “out of touch” and shouldn’t be reelected next year and should be replaced by a candidate nobody knows. McConnell’s strengths far outweigh his weaknesses and if I were a constituent in Kentucky, I would personally campaign on behalf of the Senator for his reelection, the same as I would Senator Jon Kyl, who was considered a rock-ribbed conservative until he decided to join the compromise for a meaningful immigration bill both sides could (hopefully) come together on and from there on was, like any other Republican who shared similar viewpoints to his, villified as a sell out and traitor to his country.

I frequently read arguments from some of the people who opposed this bill who say, “better no bill than this one.” While I understand the sentiment behind it, I don’t agree with it in this case, because if we don’t do something about this issue now (and by “now” I mean before this Congressional term is over), the immigration bill under a Democratic administration (which I think we’ll have) is going to make Bush’s “shamnesty” bill look like the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel. I’m ok with the bill being ‘tabled’ for now, but I want it resolved before the election year campaigning starts going full force next year, because if this thing keeps getting shoved to the back burner, we can look forward to one of the worst illegal immigration ‘solutions’ this country has ever seen and it could very well happen under a Democrat president’s ‘leadership’ and if Democrats get more seats in the Senate, we will be powerless to stop a real “shamnesty” plan, because do you think they’re going to give a damn what Republicans have to say about it?

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years about the issues that are the most important to me, it’s to learn to be happy with the little victories because the big victories are hard to come by. Take, for example, abortion. It’s no secret that I oppose abortion, but I’m also a realist and realize that abortion can’t be outlawed tomorrow. It’s just not going to happen. So I take comfort in the little victories – like the ban on PBA, and the restrictions on funding for embryonic stem cell research and US funding for international abortions (both advocated by this President, BTW). Those are baby steps (no pun intended) towards a – hopefully – change in attitude on right to life issues. I believe that step by step with each small victory, one day, we just may get to a point in this country where babies aren’t looked at as a “choice” but instead a “child” by an overwhelming majority of the American people. That will be the “big victory” for me. Abortion, as I’ve said before, is my “no compromise” issue, so if the party ever did turn it’s back on its pro-life platform, I’d be saying goodbye.

I think conservatives need to take the same approach with respect to the immigration issue. We simply aren’t going to get everything we want in an immigration bill. We’re going to have to take a little bad with the good. And as I noted earlier, if we don’t get this issue resolved soon, it may very well be in the hands of a Democrat administration to deal with. Which would you rather see? Have it resolved this year? Or under a Hillary or Obama adminstration? I shudder at the thought of any of the Dem nominees in charge of securing our borders and tackling the illegal immigration issue.

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