The current political debate is quickly becoming about the past, rather than the future. There is a depressing parallel between policymakers who are arguing about who did or didn’t vote for the war in Iraq instead of what to do in Iraq, and the debate about securing the border to prevent the arrival of immigrants who are already here. Focusing on 9/11, the authorization of war in Iraq, and the past positions of candidates on immigration is backward-looking and facile. A much more difficult–and much more productive–debate on foreign and domestic policy would focus on what to do now. In terms of immigration, the massive demographic shift occurring in the U.S., involving legal and illegal immigrants as well as their children, has already taken place. Immigration already happened. However, ideology is distorting the debate, and the dominant political discourse makes it politically costly for politicians to try any clear-eyed problem-solving.
We cannot afford to let our emotions cloud the very important task of determining what we should do about the more than 12 million undocumented immigrants that are within our borders. The fate of so many people will have long-term ramifications for our schools, our communities, our economy, our identity as a nation of immigrants and yes, for our political parties (see this Wall Street Journal article for more on how immigration policy could have an impact on how immigrants vote in the future).
If we haven’t even started the primaries and the immigration debate is already so debased, you can be sure that no matter which of the many sides you are on when it comes to immigration, what you won’t see in the coming months is anything resembling a solution.
-Amanda Levinson | Director of Policy Programs