Immigration reform will help
Friday, November 9, 2012
Just look at those people, said David Brooks at PBS. That’s all you need to know.
The broadcast focused on Election Night gatherings in Chicago and Boston. The victorious Democrats celebrated with great joy as they awaited the president’s victory speech. The Republicans moped and milled as they braced for concession. The cameras toggled between the two contrasting scenes. The difference was stark. The dancing Democrat revelers were young and beautiful, plentiful and hip, and they came in every shade imaginable. Republicans had some diversity and youth, too, but conspicuously plentiful were the proverbial old white guys in suits.
I happen to like old white guys in suits, and the Democrats still have many. The point is, even absent the obvious mood-changing effects of victory or defeat, if I was 30 years old I know where I would want to be. If I was something other than white, I would know instantly where I fit in.
Republicans don’t need to open a disco, but they should observe the makeup of the crowd and see symptoms in need of treatment. It’s hard to build a majority promoting policies unintentionally, or intentionally, exclusive. The theme from the Republican base on immigration and immigration reform has failed as policy but succeeded as an alienating force. Intolerance of illegal immigrants may appeal on a pure rule-of-law basis, but in the real world the impact cuts far too wide. Even if unintended, it sent a message to 10 percent of the electorate that their very presence in the country was viewed with suspicion. Then these same people hear from the party nominee that he hoped 13 million of their friends and relatives would leave the country, and we don’t want their children in college, thanks, because that’s amnesty. The message was not subtle, and not lost on 70 percent of Latinos who voted for Barack Obama. Asked by Fox News analyst Juan Williams why the Republican message failed to draw Latino voters, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said, “It’s very hard to make the economic argument to people who think you want to deport their grandmother.”
Repairs can begin with immigration reform, which everyone should know is long overdue. Some progress is possible now, more than any time since President Bush tried and failed. Consider immediately the means to increase legal immigration, which has been stifled into near non-existence and so made illegal immigration an economic inevitability. Build tools that let foreigners in need of work find it in the United States. Find ways that let foreign students educated in our universities use their skills here, where our economy can benefit. Consider the long dormant AgJOBS bill or something like it, to create a guest worker program so willing foreign workers can fill the desperate need for their skills and effort in the United States and support a multi-billion-dollar industry. Consider the DREAM Act, to let undocumented immigrants who came here as children seek higher education in their home country, this country, where they were schooled and nurtured. Find a way for 13 million people, who may have arrived here outside the law but have worked here, raised their families here, and contributed to our economy, find a way to live here legally and yes, eventually become citizens if they choose.
Do these things and it will be a net economic benefit for the country. It will make it possible to secure our borders at last, as our economic needs can be supplied legally. And it will, maybe, help Republicans change their demographic makeup so one day they can celebrate again.
Tracy Warner’s column appears Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at email@example.com or 665-1163.
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