The border crisis that brought President Barack Obama and Texas Gov. Rick Perry to the table last week is one that graphically illustrates the partisan and philosophic divide that is grinding our American government into the quagmire of gridlock.
To date, some 52,000 unaccompanied youth and children have been detained along the Southwest border this fiscal year, which almost doubles last year’s total. The illegal immigration surge is one that is clearly a reaction to dangers and deprivation in Mexico and the Central America region along with the false belief that governments in American will accept illegal immigrant youth, children and women more readily than adults.
What is the greater issue? Is it the total abdication of border security and the rule of law on the question of immigration – a situation that has existed under the nose of Congress and occupants of the White House from both parties for decades?
Or is the greater ill the humanitarian disaster of children wandering across dangerous, life-threatening terrain seeking a better like only to be stonewalled and marginalized by the country that professes to welcome immigrants?
Immigration is a problem that will solved by governing, not by posturing on the methods. Current laws are sufficient to manage immigration – but only if both parties turn from decades of ignoring enforcement.
Clearly, the fact that the face of the current crisis is a young person’s face exacerbates the problem and intensifies the debate. But the fact is that this is an old and tired debate.
The Democratic and Republican labels are both pretty worthless on the topic of immigration. Neither party can lay any legitimate claim to anything approaching a moral high ground on the issue. Congress, as it has for decades, has talked in circles around immigration reform until the numbers of illegal or undocumented immigrants grew to the level that mass deportation is neither fiscally feasible nor politically plausible and that the nation’s economy has become inexorably intertwined with immigrant labor.
Not only have immigrants workers filled the void on low wage, low skill jobs that Americans in other demographics have not pursued, they have done so with a sterling work ethic and a performance that has given them upward mobility in the workplace.
Despite getting 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012, Obama has deported more Hispanics than his predecessor George W. Bush. Immigration, because of the sheer size and scope of the problem and because of the political reality that Hispanics now represent more than 9 percent of the national electorate, is an issue that neither party has a credible solution for and so the political game has become one of kick the can down the road.
The Supreme Court’s split decision on the omnibus 2010 Arizona immigration legislation really satisfied no one and settled nothing in terms of delineating America’s future immigration policy.
It would seem that, in great measure, the future will be one in which neither the federal nor state governments exert much effort to enforce existing federal laws and that the state’s will be constrained from taking steps to enforce the federal immigration laws that the feds now routinely ignore.
In the guise of Obama and Perry, both parties and the federal and state governments those parties fight over controlling, continue to pass the buck and ignore both the humanitarian disgrace and the legal and statutory joke that immigration enforcement has become. The only this both parties seem to agree on is that they don’t want to be the one holding the bag when the issue overwhelms the country – and that will come sooner than either party wants to admit.
Sid Salter is a syndicated political columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also is chief spokesman for Mississippi State University.