I can think of about eleven million reasons for this country to reform our badly broken immigration system. Eleven million people “living in the shadows” as it were; clinging to life on the margins of society. Many actually do pay taxes in the form of sales and other use taxes, but for the most part they live off the grid in terms of contributing fully to the economic prowess of this nation. Add to that the fact that we therefore have eleven million people living in the in-between space of legal citizenship and whatever it is you call the life of an undocumented person, and you have yourself a true humanitarian crisis.
There are of course some who argue that these people all “came here illegally” (which isn’t really true since many did come here legally and have simply let their visas expire). Those some people argue that these people are “sucking our resources dry” (which is completely hilarious given that undocumented immigrants wouldn’t have the necessary paperwork and identification to even qualify for federal or state assistance programs). The argument therefore is made that we should just round up all eleven million of them — because you know that’s just super-duper easy to do — and send them packing from whence they came. Send them all back to Mexico. What if they’re not from Mexico? Well, then they can get a connecting flight to Uzbekibekibekistan or whatever inferior, non-Amurika-Style country they come from.
These are Republican rank-and-file voters saying these things. Sadly their elected officials aren’t really doing much to discourage this kind of shortsighted “logic.” In fact, every time you hear a right-wing politician tell you that the border has to be more secure before we discuss immigration reform, you can just chalk that up as more dog whistle anti-Hispanic sentiment that has no place in the discussion. Our border with Mexico is damned secure. We know this because net immigration from Mexico has dropped to zero. That’s right, statistically it’s a wash between new Mexican immigrants and those leaving either through repatriation back into Mexico, or deportation.
It’s not the Canadian border that the Republicans want to secure either, is it? You’re not hearing Republican Tea Party politicians call for stronger security at all our international airports. No, it’s our border with Mexico they’re so interested in turning into another militarized zone. Maybe they figure they can find work for all the soldiers coming home from Afghanistan by putting them right along our southern border. Because nothing says “We love you, our fellow continent-mates” like turning our border with them into a neo-Berlin Wall, right?
I keep coming back to the color of their skin and their language of origin as to what really irks these conservatives about immigration reform. I don’t know what the current demographic breakdown of the undocumented population is, but I’d be willing to bet that there are large swaths of Asian and European immigrants here “illegally” as well. And yet, it’s only the states like Texas and Arizona, that share borders with Mexico, that are grousing the most about “securing” our fences before we do the humane thing and give these eleven million mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters a clear pathway to full citizenship. Why is it that the immigration battle has been boiled down to essentially an argument against letting the Mexicans stay? It makes no sense on any kind of reality-based level.
What I don’t understand is why no one in the Republican leadership has figured out how good they’ll look if they are the party that figures out how to get in front of the immigration reform issue, and not in a way that is hostile toward immigrants, or the undocumented. For being a group of people who ostensibly follow the “love and forgiveness” teachings of Jesus Christ, when it comes to simply forgiving eleven million people who felt America is still a land of better opportunity than their homelands, and that it was worth risking incarceration and deportation to try and get a piece of the American Dream for themselves? They turn their backs on those who need our help the most. Christ would be rolling over on his cross to see people who espouse a love of his teachings treat the lowest among us in such a way.
Of course they are terrified that after immigration reform happens all those eleven million people will suddenly become lifelong Democrats. But you have to ask yourself why they’d be so afraid of that. The answer of course is that the Republican Party’s official policies are completely anti-lower and middle class. Considering that many of the eleven million new Americans at stake would slide right into either of those two categories, the GOP has to know that they’ll look completely unappealing to the newly welcomed immigrant population. You add on top of that the virulent strain of racism that has kept Birtherism alive and well in the right-wing media and blogosphere, and you have yourself a reality where the GOP could help push immigration reform only to lose out on all those potential voters by virtue of the rest of their messaging.
In the wake of the 2012 election, the GOP was telling the country they were going to root out the problems that plagued them in that election season and fix them. No more splitting hairs on the definition of rape. No more obsession over Obamacare. No more jingoism and abject racism on immigration reform. Had they followed through with these pledges and really made a good attempt to rehab their image as well as modernize their platform, a big push on immigration reform could easily get them control of the Senate back this November. But instead, the Republicans have doubled if not tripled down on the same outdated and antiquated social and economic policies that put them in trouble in 2012, and the fact that Speaker Boehner keeps refusing to budge on immigration reform in even the smallest way shows that they are nowhere near regaining a footing as a national party.
How shortsighted are these people, really? Whether they like it or not, demographics are indeed shifting. In thirty or so years, they’ll truly represent the minority population in this country — old, white conservatives. If all they were doing was arguing about marginal tax rates and ending true waste and fraud in the government’s ledgers, they’d have a fighting chance. Instead, they can’t help themselves. They are an anti-populist party, and immigration reform is a populist notion.
If it’s not racism, it’s blind allegiance to a sect of voters that is literally dying off. They’re running scared, and they’re forcing eleven million people to remain in the shadows because they just can’t get over themselves. They can’t admit that they’re hyper-idealized, super-white bread version of America that they desperately long for never existed, and certainly will never come again. They’d rather boycott Coca-Cola for daring to run a commercial featuring “America, The Beautiful” sung in different tongues than grow up and face the changing winds of time.
It’s truly a self-fulfilling prophecy. They fear handing the Democrats eleven million new votes, so instead of changing their ways and facing reality, they fortify their positions, forcing an end result that they will most certainly hate. When — not if, but when — those eleven million undocumented people are welcomed into the fold, they will most certainly punish the political party that couldn’t look past the color of their skin, or the fictional threats they posed to “American Culture,” and maybe not all eleven million will register as Democrats, but you better believe the majority will never cast a single vote for a Republican in their lifetimes.