(Houston Chronicle) – The White House recently proposed an immigration framework that is both balanced and serious and can lead to a bipartisan deal on the issue.
President Trump’s plan is generous to the Dreamers – those who entered the country illegally as minors through no fault of their own – by providing legal status and a path to citizenship to as many as 1.8 million of them. It also includes some tough, yet reasonable, measures to limit chain migration and to boost border security, including building a wall system along the southern border.
While the cuts in legal immigration resulting from the proposed elimination of immigrant visas for extended family members, such as parents and siblings, could be significant over time, the reality is that they would be less dramatic than what some detractors would like us to believe. To begin with, it’s hard to estimate how deep the cuts would actually end up being. Moreover, the cuts could take over five decades to fully materialize and, even then, we would will still be welcoming hundreds of thousands of immigrants annually.
Let there be no doubt: This is anything but a radical proposal. This is a centrist plan and evidence of that is the fact that the extremes on both sides of the immigration debate are doing everything they can to dismiss it. Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a well-known immigration hardliner, came out strongly against the plan, saying that we shouldn’t “be granting a path to citizenship to anybody here illegally.”Sensible conservatives, for example, should push back against the small but vocal group of restrictionists within their ranks who have taken the immigration issue hostage, denouncing any form of legalization of undocumented immigrants as “amnesty.”
They should be courageous and stand up for the Dreamers. They know that Dreamers are not criminals, but rather good and hard-working people who don’t know any home but America and who contribute greatly to our economy and our communities.
Democrats, on the other hand, should avoid playing politics with the issue, as they have done so far to appease their more extremist base. They should also ignore those in their caucus who sadly seem determined to kill any immigration bill, even if it benefits the Dreamers, concerned that, if passed, Republicans, particularly President Trump, could get the credit for it and make inroads with key voting constituencies like the Hispanic electorate.
Their fierce opposition today to a border wall and to ending chain migration is frankly disingenuous. Many of them voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorized the construction of 700 miles of double-layered fencing along the southern border.
And ending chain migration was proposed in 1995 by the late civil rights leader and Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Jordan in her role as Chairwoman of the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and embraced by President Clinton and many other Democrats in Congress.
There is no way around it: To get an immigration bill done, both Democrats and Republicans have to be willing to give in and accept some of the demands from the other side. Any serious effort at bipartisanship, especially on such a complex and contentious issue as immigration, requires a process of give and take. President Trump’s proposal provides a reasonable path forward for both sides to forge the necessary consensus to pass an immigration bill that is good for the nation and for our Dreamers.
As President Trump stated on Tuesday when talking about immigration reform in his State of the Union remarks: “For over 30 years, Washington has tried and failed to solve this problem. This Congress can be the one that finally makes it happen… So let’s come together, set politics aside and finally get the job done.”
Aguilar is President of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles and former Chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship in the administration of President George W. Bush.