06/26/12 — Real talk: Politics and illegal immigration policy just don't mix

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Real talk: Politics and illegal immigration policy just don't mix

The verdict is in -- and the Supreme Court has taken a few of the teeth out of Arizona's attempts to stem the tide of illegal immigration through its borders.

But a key provision -- that law enforcement personnel be allowed to ask for proof of citizenship if they stop a car and suspect that its passengers might be in the country illegally -- has made it through.

And that is a good thing.

The truth is the immigration issue has become a political football, mostly because the president needs to secure support from Hispanic Americans to boost his chances at re-election.

That is the reason that after three years of talking about the need for immigration reform -- and doing nothing -- all of a sudden he has decided to take matters into his own hands and to grandstand -- over the  heads of Congress, against the Constitution and, most importantly, before a Republican could suggest a better idea.

The bottom line is that the president's proposal is a Band Aid to a very serious problem that has real consequences for states that border Mexico, not to mention the rest of the country.

There are millions of illegal immigrants in this country and they should not be rewarded for ignoring the rules -- even if they are good people, and even if they brought their non-native children with them and they are essentially Americans now and even if it is the "feel good" easy answer to just allow them to become legal with the swipe of the pen.

Yet, what are we to do with the millions of people who are in this country without the proper documentation already? Send them home? That is not realistic either.

Before we talk about that, let's admit this -- there is nothing wrong with the United States requiring certain conditions be met before someone can enter this country -- or to send them home, fine them or otherwise make it unpleasant for them to be here if they choose to ignore those rules.

There is a line -- and we should require people to stay in that line. That makes citizenship something to strive for -- and rewards those who make the commitment necessary to achieve it.

That, not a free pass, is what America should be about.

Secondly, there is racial profiling when you are looking for illegal immigrants. There is no way to avoid it. If you suspect someone is here illegally, it could very well be because he or she fits a certain profile. There is no other rational way to check. But such checks can be regulated -- and any law enforcement officer who is found using it maliciously or wantonly, should be punished severely.

So what is the answer to illegal immigration?

A good first step is a way for workers to obtain special certification -- even if they do not want citizenship. Such documentation would be required for them to legally hold any job in the United States. If you are caught without that paperwork -- or if you hire a worker without it -- you face a fine.

Second, allow illegals to seek a legal path to citizenship -- at a cost. They jumped the line; they pay the price. Allow those who followed the rules to come in first -- and without the accompanying hoops to jump through.

The same is true for those who are the children of illegals or who came into this country as children with their parents. They should be given the opportunity to apply to become citizens and required to pay a fee to change their immigration status. Considering amnesty for children who meet certain conditions is a possibility.

There is a concern that Americans are so anti-illegal-immigration because they do not want to become the minority in their own country. And while there might be some who feel that way, the vast majority of the rest of us just want citizenship to mean something.

There is no clear path forward on this issue, but it is time to talk about it, that's for sure. And one of the first parts of that debate should be -- what do states do when the federal government talks but does not act and they must deal with the consequences?

And after that, maybe, we should remind the president and his supporters what a republic really stands for -- and how states' rights factored into the founding fathers' plan for this nation.

Perhaps, however, that discussion should wait until after November.

Published in Editorials on June 26, 2012 3:58 PM