OKLAHOMA CITY, June 11, 2013 — Immigration reform is a topic that Republicans wish would disappear. Democrats want the issue to continue so the party can be political heroes to the millions of undocumented immigrants.
The 1986 Immigration and Reform Act was designed to solve the problem of undocumented immigrants. And yet 27 years later, immigration remains stubbornly unreformed. The Senate’s “gang of eight” has crafted a reform bill that not even members of the “gang” can support, and not only can Republicans not agree with Democrats on the issue, they can’t agree with each other.
Political operatives from the far right seem to have forgotten that the inflow of undocumented immigrants into the U.S. is nothing new. The Chinese did it in the late 1800’s, as did the Irish during the potato famine. Waves of immigrants arrived from Sweden, Italy, Germany and Eastern Europe, each in its turn seen as an economic threat and a political football.
The major flow of undocumented immigrants from Mexico to the United States started in the 1980s. Three major Mexican economic crises caused a surge of Mexicans to cross the border to find better jobs, a better way of life, and to escape the corruption of Mexican politics. Mexican citizens attempted to escape the harsh economic poverty after the debt crises of 1982, the 1986 collapse of oil prices, and the 1994 Mexican Peso devaluation.
NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, further increased the migration of Mexicans into the U.S. NAFTA was supposed to provide a win–win situation to Mexico, Canada and U.S. by reducing trade barriers. Yet the U.S. benefited the most, while Mexico was left suffering. Since 1994 the U.S. has had no solution to battle the growing number of undocumented immigrants from Mexico.
Placing fences around the border will do little to stem the flow of undocumented immigrants; fences are easily circumvented, and most undocumented workers aren’t hiking in across the Sonoran Desert. Over 40 percent of undocumented immigrants came to the U.S. on a visa and never left.
Congressman Luis Gutierrez advocated for immigration reform for years, yet had no strong allies until Congressman Paul Ryan recently joined him on the issue. Senator Marco Rubio is lobbying for immigration reform in hopes of settling the immigration issue facing America. Yet colleagues from his own Party, along with several Democrats, are hesitant to join Rubio and the gang of eight to pass immigration reform. The political risks of backlash are high, and Republicans are uncertain whether they come with the opportunity of adding millions of Hispanic voters to GOP ranks or whether new Hispanic voters will be predominantly Democrats.
As long as the U.S. remains the land of milk and honey, immigrants, whether crossing the border or overstaying their visas, will do what it takes to reach prosperity in the U.S. Only American economic collapse or a rich and stable Mexico, with a burgeoning middle class and ample opportunity, will stop the flow.