Immigration Debate Smothered by Campaigning
The New York Times reported today on how Democratic congressional candidates are taking a tougher stance on immigration to lure more conservative voters to the polls. This year, we came frustratingly close to enacting positive reform of our troubled immigration system. It is unfortunate for the American public that this important debate was hijacked by Congressional midterm elections and their accompanying shenanigans. We should be angry that our representatives in Congress have used their own perceived political gain to distract us from a real debate about how to reform our immigration system.
After a true bipartisan effort resulted in the Senate bill passed earlier this year, partisan bickering has taken the stage. Instead of the anticipated negotiations toward comprehensive reform, Republican and Democratic candidates alike made a joke out of field hearings this summer using them for their own political purposes. Some Democratic candidates, such as Representative Harold E. Ford Jr. of Tennessee, with voting records favoring comprehensive reform, changed their tune when speaking to the public. Some are calling for tougher restrictions in order to highlight the failures of President Bush and Republican leadership, even if they haven't supported them in the past. More conservative Republican candidates are using the issue to focus on the morality of law-breaking immigrants and to conjure up fear of a cultural invasion. Either way, the public is missing out on the discussion that really matters.
We should be offended that our lawmakers have shifted the focus of this essential debate away from concrete proposals and instead have focused on rhetoric about immoral border crossers and terrorism. History has shown us that an enforcement-only approach has always failed to stem the tide of undocumented immigration. This one-sided debate denies the fact that our economy relies on immigration to stay competitive and strong. We deserve to be engaged in a real conversation about how our broken immigration system can be reformed in a way that will benefit all Americans.