REHOBOTH BEACH, De., June 27, 2014 – Eric Cantor, one of the more conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives, lost his party primary to a Tea Party candidate earlier this month. This news brightened Tea Party followers this mid elections year.
The most prominent issue in this election was the controversy about immigration and amnesty for undocumented immigrants. Cantor had made some small concessions to the Democratic Party in this area and many think that was his downfall.
The fact that Cantor was the incumbent and the majority leader in the House was enough to make many predict that this election will mirror others. All members of the House and one third the members of the Senate will be up for election later this year. For those familiar with mid Atlantic politics, Cantor’s loss appears to be typical of that particular district and nothing more.
The bigger issue of immigration and amnesty is, however, a national issue.
While the total number of undocumented immigrants in the US is not really known, many estimate that it ranges in the 11 million range. Most of these are probably of Hispanic/Latino descent and may have been in the US from 20 years or more to a few months. These masses live outside the economy and most hold menial jobs to support themselves, send some money back to their home country and pay taxes. Yes, in many cases taxes are collected from these individuals. Most employers are more afraid of the IRS than the INS.
One thing that most people agree on is that our immigration system is broken.
In addition to amnesty, another proposal that has galvanized opposition to any kind of immigration reform is the so called ‘Dream Act’. This proposal would allow offspring of undocumented immigrants to attain legal status and remain in the US. These children and teenagers have been the US most of their lives, many speak only English, and most don’t have any connection to the country of their parents. Some have pointed to fairness as the main objective of this bill as the children didn’t have any choice regarding their parents’ movements.
Opposition to immigration reform centers on two main issues:
- Undocumented immigrants should not be rewarded for breaking the law;
- Our national boundaries are not secure.
There is however an uglier underbelly to this opposition based on race and xenophobia. Some see the legalization of many darker, non-Caucasian or mixed individuals as the farther decline of the country. The relative importance of this group is to be determined, as very few would admit to racism or xenophobia.
Of all the facts in this issue, what to do with the undocumented immigrants already in the country is the most important. Sending most or all back is not practical. The resources needed would never be approved by an already stingy House and would never be sanctioned by the Senate. Even if this was possible, finding 11 million individuals that have so far evaded the authorities would be close to impossible.
So it may be that the issue is not rewarding undocumented immigrants, but doing the logical thing to resolve the issue. Some conservatives in the National Legislature have suggested that there may be a compromise they would accept. In broad strokes it involves securing the borders, self-reporting by the undocumented immigrants, a fine or “application fee”, a thorough background investigation, a sufficiency in English and a path to legalization and citizenship. It remains to be determined whether Cantor’s primary shock would have deterred other conservatives from negotiating with the Democrats for a bipartisan bill that would resolve our immigration debacle.
In the last few months another issue that has caused a lot of concern and has added to President Obama’s discontent, is the arrival of thousands of children and young mothers with children at the border seeking asylum. Apparently most have come from Central America after hearing that the US was giving asylum to any child showing up at the border. Reports that they were told this by gang members in their countries have not been confirmed. Gang (“Maras”) problems in some Central American countries have become critical.
It is very possible that there is a financial connection between the Maras and the Coyotes that are paid to bring the people through Mexico and into the US. The Obama administration is trying to convince the Mexican government to police their southern borders better. This issue has the potential to become a humanitarian crisis.
The American public can only hope that after the mid-term elections sober heads will prevail and our legislature will find a solution to this immigration catastrophe. A conciliatory approach by the Republicans may go a long way in extending their political umbrella to include Latinos. If not, this important segment of the voting public may continue to belong solely to the Democrats.
Mario Salazar, the 21st Century Pacifist, is a naturalized US citizen from Colombia, a Vietnam Veteran and a retired Civil Servant. He is in Twitter (@chibcharus), Google+ and Facebook (Mario Salazar).