According to Politico, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., are continuing to work on immigration reform, an issue the conventional wisdom says is DRT (dead right there).
Consider the evidence. President George W. Bush’s second-term push for immigration reform died a brutal death at the hands of his fellow Republicans. Any sensible suggestion to deal with an estimated 12 million immigrants in the country illegally other than mass deportation was labeled “amnesty,” a slur in the GOP lexicon almost as malicious as “taxes.”
Congressional Democrats, seemingly willing to watch their rival party split apart over a contentious issue and wary of angering their constituents, didn’t take a forceful leadership position.
As a result, Bush’s plan, which had many commendable aspects, was sunk in 2007.
Since then, Democrats and Republicans have been reluctant to look comprehensively at illegal immigration. Even a modest measure like 2010’s DREAM Act offering children of illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship was defeated late last year.
Granted, the big picture defies easy solutions.
Mass deportations of millions of undocumented workers in the United States would be extremely costly, perhaps more than the annual budget of the Department of Homeland Security, and virtually impossible.
Cheap illegal-immigrant labor depresses wages of U.S. citizens at the bottom of the economic ladder while at the same time keeping retail prices for some foods low for all consumers.
Clearly, addressing this problem will take more than empty slogans and even more empty gestures.
Graham and Schumer admitted to Politico that their efforts are in the early stages. Yet, they have brought immigrant rights groups, labor unions, business organizations and evangelical groups to the table. In Politico’s telling, the senators are “looking to a strange-bedfellows mix of conservative and liberal constituencies that can provide a ‘safety net’ of support.”
That’s a good move, far better than the usual partisan split that ends up demonizing the many illegal immigrants who are merely poor people from other nations seeking a better life in the United States. The goal is to weed out the small group of violent offenders among the illegal-immigrant population and then offer the rest an opportunity at citizenship.
Once more, Graham stands out among his fellow Southern senators as a conservative leader willing to break out of the usual mold. There’s plenty of room on the stage and no need for Graham to solely occupy the spotlight.