Legislators should pass immigration reform that actually works

Comprehensive immigration reform is the right thing to do economically, politically, and morally, said Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and Sonia Manzano (of Sesame Street fame). Honda and Manzano put forth their message in a Feb. 5, 2010 op-ed for Roll Call, a premier publication on Capitol Hill. “The tide seems to be turning,” said the op-ed, “despite populist trends that might suggest otherwise.”

The political climate, they suggest, is ripe for some form of immigration reform to pass. This is due to their belief that some conservatives are jumping on board with the need for immigration reform. Honda and Manzano almost seem to suggest that conservatives, up to this point, have been behind the times when it comes to the immigration reform debate.

The assessment of the two authors is halfway on target with their examination of the political climate. Some Republicans are bit nervous to come out against comprehensive immigration reform. Their underlying fear is being painted racist by Democrats.

“These new voices,” they said in reference to new supporters of immigration reform, “along with recent polling that puts the majority of the American public in favor of a legalization proccess for our 12 million undocumented immigrants, bodes well for a nation in desperate need of a new immigration policy.”

Concerning some on the right whom the left seeks to constantly vilify on this divisive issue, it’s not so much that they are “anti-immigrant”. What’s more accurate to say is that they still believe in immigration reform; however, they don’t believe it should be done comprehensively (read: in a way that expands the federal government by creating more government agencies).

This leads to the point the authors make about populist trends. On this they are mistaken. The whole reason behind movements like the Tea Party coalitions is because there are independent-minded voters out there who are fed up with the current political system, as well as the growth in size and scope of government.

When the immigration debate takes center stage, the same will ring true: Any form of immigration legislation growing the size of government and failing to fix core problems will be met by intense opposition from those tired of seeing government waste.

Perhaps this gives some insight behind a recent OC Register poll which revealed that 54% of those polled don’t believe there will be a comprehensive immigration bill any time soon.  Perhaps people don’t believe a bill will pass because independents are coming out of their caves and saying, “Hold on. Take a step back for a second and don’t rush immigration legislation.”

The authors closed their article by saying that the politics of immigration reform “must reflect the ever changing politics of our population.” Also, they said that as America diversifies, “elected officials will rightly move policies in a direction to serve that diverse constituency.”

On this point, Rep. Honda and Manzano couldn’t be more mistaken. For a diverse state like California, state and federal representatives should seek to serve their broad constituency. There’s no doubt about that. But when it comes to immigration reform, policy should not be changed just because it sounds benevolent to minorities.

Some piece of legislation may sound nice, but will it actually work?

This is the fundamental question to ask when the discussion shifts to immigration reform. Immigration reform shouldn’t be some relative concept that shifts with the times. There needs to be clear-cut principles guiding it.

This is the only kind of immigration reform that will truly be benevolent to immigrants who want a fighting chance on the ladder of success in a state like California.