With the mixed verdict the Supreme Court gave SB 1070, Jan Brewer’s comment that the Court “vindicated” Arizona was one of the silliest reactions to the decision.
Sillier — and more dangerous — has been the political cowardice displayed by those who should know better.
That would be the politicians — from the president on down — in whom we put our trust to Do the Right Thing.
But with immigration, those politicians have done anything but that.
Sure, you could agree with the president’s order to impose a de facto Dream Act. And you could agree with how ICE will pursue only the criminal element among the illegal immigrants who are detained by local law enforcement.
But just as the Court ruled that allowing states to create their own immigration laws would lead to chaos, a patchwork of presidential orders cannot replace a systematic, rational immigration policy.
The current piecemeal approach comes from the cowardice of many who should know better.
We witnessed the political cowardice in 2010, when John McCain — once one of the Senate’s main voices of reason on immigration — cowered in the face of a challenge by the buffoonish J.D. Hayworth, and retreated to a “Build the Dang Fence” strategy.
I’m afraid the same transformation’s taking place now with Jeff Flake, a true blue conservative who also saw the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Now, though, he seems to have backtracked, most probably for political reasons only.
And with that vacuum created by our leading politicians’ inaction, the extremists and exploiters get to define the issue.
So we’ve spent the last couple of years in the hands of Russell Pearce’s SB 1070, a law that has zero — zero — effect on border enforcement. And instead of a calm consideration of what to do with the 11 million or so illegal immigrants in our country, we’ve argued about his handiwork, most of which has now either been declared unconstitutional or subject to further litigation.
And we’ve been subjected to Joe Arpaio’s “crime suppression” sweeps, publicity stunts that ensure further media exposure for the publicity-desperate sheriff.
And we have the folks on the other side, the ones who don’t seem to have any solution beyond “Get rid of Arpaio,” or “Down with SB 1070,” neither of which is a solution.
But maybe, maybe, with the Supreme Court rebuking Arizona, we’ll see, finally, Congressional action next year.
Maybe we’ll see a bill that would combine the border enforcement tactics used by Obama — the increased deportation, the bump in border agents, the use of drones to better patrol the border — with a national method that would allow employers to detect employees here illegally, with punishment for employers who then continue to hire illegal immigrants, with a plan to allow otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants to reside and work in our country, with a better temporary worker program.
We know that in some areas, illegal immigrants take jobs from American citizens, mostly because they are willing to work off the books for less than what the employer would have to pay an American worker. And we know in other areas, American citizens seem to shun the work only illegal immigrants will do. By providing a legal path to remaining in our country, we could solve both problems.
Employers would have to pay the same to the now-legal immigrants as they would an American worker, and the now-legal immigrants would have no reasons to remain in the shadows, taking lower pay from their employers. This would also provide the work pool labor-intensive jobs like harvesting requires.
That’s a lot to do. But polls indicate that most Americans want that kind of solution. For most Americans — if polls are accurate — border enforcement is a priority. And legislation would have to codify better enforcement policies, some of which the Obama Administration has already begun. At the same time, most Americans are for some path to legal residency for our current illegal immigrants.
The Court’s decision implies that Congress and the president must act. If we’re lucky, maybe the slap in the face the Court gave the extremists and the exploiters gives other politicians the backbone needed to enact a sane, comprehensive policy.