There is this "conventional wisdom" that immigration reform is a political loser for the party who pushes it. It is true that opponents of comprehensive immigration reform are very, very loud. They're frustrated and they want immigration reform to start with militarizing the border and trying to kick out the 12 million or so illegals who have deep roots in the United States.That's the wrong solution. The party that actually achieves real immigration reform will find answers to these issues:
* how do we identify those who are already here illegally?
* how do we create a path to citizenship for them that includes an admission they broke the law, a tough penalty, a long wait for citizenship and an ID card to prove qualification for employment?
* how do we make sure our borders are secure?
* how do we fulfill part-time labor needs in the U.S.?
We understand the frustration with illegal immigration. It's against the law and millions are breaking the law. However, fiery rhetoric, mixed in with gutless, pandering politicians, have left the issue unresolved for too long. Immigration reform is not a bloviating sheriff rounding up illegals looking for work on street corners and throwing them in desert jails with pink uniforms. The anger-based reactions to illegal immigration only breeds more resentment and turns off Hispanic U.S. citizens who are turned off by these impotent actions.
The party that achieves something close to the comprehensive immigration reform solution we've outlined above will achieve more than just a long-term solution to the immigration program. It will also reap major political benefits from Hispanic voters, a consistently growing electoral bloc.
Republicans who are quick to oppose a bipartisan immigration bill, sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., need to ponder their party's steep drop in support between 2004 and 2008. The failure of former President George W. Bush to achieve immigration reform, a measure heavily opposed by Republicans in Congress, likely helped Democrats with Hispanics.
The Graham/Schumer bill, which President Obama has spoken well of, offers a new hope for sensible immigration reform that will tighten borders and make sure only those illegals who are willing to wait in line and pay a fine for their illegal status eventually become citizens. That's fair -- and it will work.