It’s time for this nation’s leaders to pause and take a hard look at the immigration mess they’ve created. The partisan bickering and finger-pointing has yielded nothing but confusion. The lives of an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants hang in limbo, with clarity on their fates nowhere in sight.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, is fighting openly with Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, a Democrat, about what Abbott says is the need to cooperate with the Democratic-run federal government when authorities ask jailers not to release criminal immigrants. Valdez says she will no longer honor a blanket policy of cooperation but will, instead, review federal detainer requests on a case-by-case basis.
Abbott now threatens to seek legislation cracking down on “sanctuary cities” and to withhold grant funding for sheriffs who fail to honor federal detention requests.
Meanwhile, Abbott is also pushing policies that could interfere with the federal government’s ability to do its border-enforcement job. With his support, the Legislature is spending more than $800 million to amass state troopers at the border, even though federal authorities say it’s counterproductive. The state so far has produced less-than-convincing evidence that the extra spending is making a difference.
For the past decade in Washington, Republican and Democratic presidents have pleaded with Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation aimed at enhancing border security while addressing the root causes of illegal immigration — namely, that too many barriers exist to the legal entry of migrants, especially those seeking low-skilled, low-paying jobs.
Congress must find a way to address the status of the 11 million already here, especially children whose parents brought them here and now are stuck in limbo as they graduate from high school and seek jobs and college degrees. That’s not only this newspaper’s position; it’s the one advocated by the newly installed House speaker, GOP Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Yet Ryan declared this week that he will not cooperate with the White House on immigration reform. Why? He is protesting the administration’s unilateral move to relax deportation efforts against certain non-criminal unauthorized immigrants.
The irony is that President Barack Obama launched his relaxation policy to prod Congress on immigration reforms that Ryan supports. If Congress doesn’t like the policy, Obama says, then stop stalling and get to work on solutions.
That’s how convoluted this situation has become. Ryan and Obama already agree on the basic outlines for reform. It’s their delays that invite the kinds of confusion where state troopers are surging at the border while Abbott and Valdez argue over how best to do the federal government’s job.
This trajectory of escalating confusion doesn’t bode well. Which is why Congress, led by Ryan, must stop making excuses and get to work on reform.
Who said this?*
“We should reform our immigration system because it will help America. Immigrants contribute to our economy. … We also need to decrease the pressure on the border, and the way to do that is to fix the legal immigration system. Hundreds of thousands of people cross the border illegally each year. If our immigration system worked, economic immigrants — those that want to come to contribute to our economy — wouldn’t jump the fence.”
“We shouldn’t prevent them from ever earning citizenship. But we shouldn’t insist on it, either. There already is a path to citizenship — it’s the current legal immigration system. We certainly should fix it, but we shouldn’t offer them citizenship on terms different from anyone else who wants to come here.”
*Answer: Rep. Paul Ryan, newly installed speaker of the House, on his website, paulryan.house.gov