Column | Republicans and Democrats really do agree on immigration
Just when I was convinced that Republicans and Democrats in Congress couldn’t order a pizza without a six-month debate, there’s this.
I’ve discovered that members of both parties do agree on some things, such as immigration, though getting them to admit as much will be the tricky part.
Consider this statement: “Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable – especially those who may be dangerous.”
President Trump, right? Who else would say something like this other than Trump himself or one of his MAGA hat-wearing disciples? Who, other than a true xenophobe, would say such a thing?
I have the answer.
President Barack Obama, in 2014.
“When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders,” Obama said when rolling out his immigration plan.
I know. Obama never talked about something as preposterous as building a wall. But what’s the difference between “securing the borders” via added border patrol officers or a wall?
The difference is it’s Trump’s idea. Yes, the unartful, tweet-loving, often ham-handed Trump, who can’t seem to do anything positive without ruining it with a tactless tweet 10 minutes later.
Nevertheless, Trump’s and Obama’s thoughts on border security sound remarkably similar.
“Mass, uncontrolled immigration is especially unfair to the many wonderful, law-abiding immigrants already living here who followed the rules and waited their turn,” Trump said in November. “Some have been waiting for many years. Some have been waiting for a long time.”
“Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules,” Obama said in 2014. “Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America.”
The immigration debate in this country isn’t about the cost of a wall – $12 to $15 billion, depending on whose numbers you believe. It’s not about the “immorality” (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s word) of a wall. If it’s about morality, let’s get rid of all security around government buildings. We’ll no longer put fences around our properties, install security systems in our homes or lock our doors.
“It’s not the same thing,” you might say.
It’s not? Notice that I didn’t list prisons. Why? Because prison walls are designed to keep people in. The Berlin Wall was erected to keep its citizens from leaving. There’s a vast difference between putting up a wall to keep people out than building one to keep people in.
I don’t really care if we build a wall on the southern border. If someone has a better idea to secure the border, I’m open to suggestions. I do know that if you don’t have secure borders, you don’t have much of a country.
The debate over immigration is about votes.
That’s why the issue has been demagogued into a fine powder.
Democrats know that if they capitulate on the wall, they hand Trump a major policy victory, help him fulfill a campaign promise and risk upsetting Hispanic voters, most of whom vote for Democrats.
Republicans are well aware that if they give up the fight, they’ll look soft on immigration and risk losing the base that got Trump elected in the first place.
I don’t believe – and neither did President Obama – that there’s anything xenophobic (a word I wouldn’t mind hearing less frequently) about wanting to secure our country’s borders.
“All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America,” Obama said.
Obama went on to say, in the same speech, that those who break our immigration laws “must be held accountable.”
Trump has said the same thing. “We will not allow our generosity to be abused by those who would break our laws, defy our rules, violate our borders, break into our country illegally. We won’t allow it,” he said.
Surely there’s enough common ground on which to build here. Am I right, Democrats? Can I get an “Amen!”?
I suppose silence is an answer.