The November mid-term elections are less than three months away. In the coming weeks, we will see rhetoric heat up as political candidates seek to garner public support for their stances on illegal immigration. In the midst of the mayhem, voters should seek to pledge their support to candidates and legislation which make use of both compassion and common sense.
The debate over illegal immigration has become polarized. One of the problems with polarized debates is that discussion focuses on extremes at the expense of middle-of-the-road issues. For problems where real solutions can't easily be defined in terms of black and white, polarized debates push our solutions further and further into the realms of the impractical. Such is the case with the current immigration debate. Unfortunately, the solution to illegal immigration is not likely to be found in the wings of extremism. A much more likely possibility is that an issue of such complexity will include varying shades of gray in its proposed solutions.
There are two components which need to be involved in any legislation designed to address the conundrum of illegal immigration: compassion and common sense.
Compassion is a necessary component of any policy which directly impacts the lives of people. We need the cold hard facts which come from an impartial analysis of costs and benefits. But we must also be careful that we do not lose our humanity in the process. Compassion is a time-honored virtue. From a policy standpoint, it is possible to make compassion part of the process. From an ethical standpoint, it is necessary. If we forsake compassion in our policy debates, it is only a matter of time before we set aside the companion virtues of honesty and civility. The illegal immigration debate needs our compassion.
Common sense is also a critical component in a policy as far-reaching as immigration. The reasons which lead immigrants to seek a better life in America are many and can easily tug at the strings of our hearts. When the human condition of those less fortunate than us is examined, compassion is a natural by-product. And yet while a respectable solution requires a component of compassion, a practical solution will also require the administration of common sense. What are the financial implications of the proposal? The societal implications? The political implications? These are all questions which deserve answers. Compassion is admirable--and indeed necessary--in a debate such as illegal immigration. But long-lasting solutions will not come about without common sense as well.
Some may ask if it is a paradox to ask for a solution which makes use of both compassion and common sense. In a way, it is a paradox. A practical solution to illegal immigration should be expected to contain pieces from each side of the polarized debate. Few of the issues involved are black and white. It would be illogical to expect the solution to not contain some degree of gray. The hard truth that must be acknowledged is that each side brings a measure of truth to the table. A solution that entails both compassion and common sense may appear to be paradoxical, but paradox is a common element in debates which require complex solutions.
The debate over illegal immigration has become polarized. Unfortunately, a realistic solution is not likely to come from the wings of extremism. This is a complex issue that requires a solution which makes use of both compassion and common sense.
As voters, we should actively pledge our support to candidates who are honest enough to admit that complex problems aren't solved with black or white solutions.
Kurt Manwaring is pursuing a graduate degree in public administration at the University of Utah with a research emphasis on immigration. He lives in Taylorsville.