The new Arizona immigration law has done nothing else, if not make a national statement. While its constitutionality is being debated, it has certainly brought a recently forgotten about campaign topic of 2008, back into the limelight.
Behind the veil of a hotly debated domestic governance issue, there are actually national security implications at stake when it comes to immigration. In the last 15 years, all major terrorist attacks conducted in the US and Western Europe, with the exception of Oklahoma City, have been conducted by migrants. Migrants in this case being illegal immigrants or visitors.
The hesitancy to revisit this hot topic, despite the weakened state of our nation, is concerning. The President actually only reengaged the issue previous to Arizona passing its current law, giving his support to the Charles Schumer (D-NY) – Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Immigration Reform Bill of 2010 only after a threat of an anti-Obama protest at the White House.
Neither party is glad the debate is back. Democrats are split between those in favor of labor unions and those in favor of minority issues. Republicans are split between the guest workers provision and blanket deportation. If there were any a time to put differences aside, make concessions and pass immigration reform, that time would be now.
With unemployment at all-time highs, it would be tough to oppose the bill by way of the labor shortage argument. Last time I checked over 9% of the eligible working class in our country are still looking for jobs. One can only hope that the attention that Arizona is bringing to this issue will expedite the process in Washington.
There are a few issues that have shaped the immigration reform debate in recent years. The first is the question regarding the over 12 million illegal immigrants that reside in this country. A reasonable person would understand that attempting to deport each and every illegal alien would be an exercise in futility. The financial cost and human capital necessary are astronomical.
A second issue framing the debate is the subsequent enforcement of this reform, in the way of increased border patrol and sanctions against employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens. Both of these enforcement components were passed through the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
This act, signed into law by President Reagan, also granted amnesty to immigrants entering the US prior to 1982 and residing here continuously as well as providing a pathway to citizenship for others who have been here illegally post 1982. Congress is again debating both of these measures for the current reform. For practical and ethical reasons, the pathway towards legalization is essential in any bill, new or old. But why the inefficiencies? Why re-do work that has already been done, instead of enforcing measures already in place?
The fact of the matter is, that we will not be able to realistically reduce the number of immigrants entering the US, legally or otherwise. The only solution is more government and more scrutiny. There will be some who will argue constitutionality and civil rights, such is the debate in Arizona, but if done with the proper oversight those complaints can be mitigated. There is no other way.
Most Americans are unaware of the ways in which this issue of immigration affects them directly. What they don’t realize is that our immigration policies can, and will, affect the path of our country from a labor and economic perspective, and determine how safe our borders truly are.
It’s no secret that thousands of immigrants enter the United States every year. What’s alarming is the disregard given to exactly who these people are, their location, or how they spend their time here in America. Is it naïve to assume each illegal immigrant or visitor has the United States and its citizens’ best interests in mind?
Keeping in mind our nation was formed by immigrants, it is so important to remain the country that drew to it those people who have made the United States the power it is today, and thus not entirely close our borders. However, in this day and age, we need to make an outstanding effort to understand those people desirous of entering from another country.
The global and asymmetric wars that are being currently fought make us much more vulnerable here at home than we would like to think. It is naïve to reason that a loosely patrolled border and more loosely enforced laws are not a threat to our security.