Immigration reform now

In the verve and anarchy of the campaign season, immigration reform devolves into code words. The pronoun “they” and shorthand “illegals” serve a political end—to evoke fear, to scapegoat, to conjure a sense of disorder. Ironically, just floating the how-do-we-tackle-it question kindles anti-immigrant sentiment. In 2009, Georgetown University Professor Daniel Hopkins documented various communities experiencing demographic change which then convulse in an anti-immigrant slow burn as “salient national rhetoric politicizes that demographic change.” (Read: immigration is easy to demagogue.) Political speech, honed to the lesser, Xenophobic angels, diminishes us. Punting, the default position for the Obama Administration and Congress the past four years, is unacceptable.

Kick-em-out applause lines won’t ameliorate a crisis that threads together employment, public safety, health, agriculture, entitlement spending and social justice. It’s governing season. Comprehensive immigration reform is the only tenable solution.

In the other Washington, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security, is poised to team with South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, to advance a comprehensive approach. Presupposing a bill (with a nudge from an invigorated, newly re-elected president) is hammered out, few lawmakers will be 100 percent delighted. Legislating is the art of the possible, and immigration reform mirrors that reality. There will be a path to citizenship. There will be an employment requirement. There will be an English requirement. These reforms will be hitched to tighter enforcement (including documentation for agricultural workers) and border security.

With the absence of federal leadership, states hanker to fill the vacuum. Arizona’s infamous SB 1070, the Support our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, permits law enforcement to check the immigration status of detained or arrested individuals (unfortunate for those third-generation Latino-Americans conflated with undocumented Mexicans.) The U.S. Supreme Court struck down other more far-reaching components of the bill for violating the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, prohibiting states from preempting federal law (Washingtonians will learn more about the Supremacy Clause, presupposing adjudication of I-502, the state’s marijuana-legalization initiative.)

In Olympia—again, in the absence of federal reform—lawmakers may demand proof of citizenship as a requirement for drivers’ licenses. Other contentious issues center on the role of local law enforcement to police federal immigration laws (the federal “secure communities” programs) and the use of E-Verify, the Internet database that determines worker eligibility.

Washingtonians have witnessed the excesses of the immigration fight, from Border Patrol agents who conduct operations outside churches and schools frequented by immigrant families in Whatcom County, to politicians echoing the Know Nothing Party. It’s time to declare a truce, stop with the code words and move on comprehensive immigration reform now.

More in Opinion

Editorial page for Saturday, Oct. 21

A sketchy look at the day in politics.… Continue reading

Editorial: Retain Gregerson as Mukilteo’s mayor

Both candidates offer impressive resumes, but Gregerson showed leadership and compassion as mayor.

Schwab: Eyman’s anti-transit initiative will pave us over

The anti-tax crusader may save you a few bucks but will leave us helpless to deal with growth.

Commentary: What you need to know about service animals

Service animals are a medical necessity for many. Passing a pet off as one is an insult.

Editorial cartoons for Friday, Oct. 20

A sketchy look at the day in politics.… Continue reading

Gerson: Why 8th-graders should read ‘Mockingbird,’ as written

The book is meant to make people uncomfortable with racial prejudice. And that requires the n-word.

Ignatius: ISIS defeat in Raqqa a reminder of U.S. might

Obama and Trump each share in the success, but the enduring problem of governance remains.

Harrop: Trump, the deal-maker, making a mess out of trade

Leaving NAFTA, one think tank says, would amount to a “$10 billion tax” on U.S. industry.

Milbank: White House’s leaps of logic pin worst ills on trade

Looking to scuttle free trade, an adviser blames the loss of manufacturing jobs for our social ills.

Most Read