The din along the country’s Southern border is evidence of the need for immigration reform and an indictment of the House Republicans who refuse to negotiate a fair and sensible law that would serve both the nation and their dangerously out-of-touch party.
The scenes were shocking as protesters in Southern California mobbed three busloads of women and children, shouting “go home” and waving signs. The United States is facing a flood of children seeking safety from violence in their countries. They may be here illegally, but they are still children and deserved not to be treated with the ugliness that was on display in Murietta, north of San Diego.
Republicans are blaming President Obama, claiming his policy of placing such children with family members in this country is encouraging the influx. But the fact is a bipartisan law signed by President George W. Bush mandated those protections for minors fleeing violence and poverty in Central America.
This week Obama said he would ask Congress for $2 billion in emergency funding to deal with the influx and for new authority to speed the return of the unaccompanied children to their home countries.
The better solution is an immigration reform bill that deals comprehensively with the issues, but House Republicans simply refuse. They claim, preposterously, that their reluctance has to do with fear that Obama won’t enforce the law. But the facts show otherwise. The administration’s record of removals of those who have entered or tried to enter the country illegally is far higher than any other recent president.
What is more, with tea party Republicans intimidating the House leadership, the chamber is flat unwilling to consider any kind of immigration reform that deals realistically with those already in the country by offering some kind of a pathway to legal status. In the Senate, Republicans and Democrats worked through the issues and produced a strong bill. It died in the House.
Yet Republicans themselves underscored the need for immigration reform after their 2012 loss to Obama. The party’s post-mortem said: “We are not a policy committee, but among the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond, we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only. We also believe that comprehensive immigration reform is consistent with Republican economic policies that promote job growth and opportunity for all.”
Speaker John Boehner blames Obama for the results of an out-of-date immigration law that he cannot persuade his party to fix. The price of inaction can be paid in many ways and one of them is the unexpected wave of children illegally making their way into this country.
Polls consistently show Americans supporting immigration reform. A June survey by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution found that 62 percent favor allowing a path to citizenship. Another 17 percent said illegal immigrants should be able to become legal residents but not citizens.
Frustrated with the House’s intransigence, Obama has pledged to do what he can administratively to deal with immigration. Any responsible president would do the same, but what Obama can do on his own is limited.
The country was founded on the theory that intelligent people would compromise to find solutions to serious issues. In the absence of that compromise, children are among those paying the price.