On Saturday, the Globe ran an editorial from the Topeka Capital-Journal. The editorial was opposed to the idea of a waiver program recently introduced by Kansas Secretary of Agriculture, Dale Rodman. The waiver idea would allow illegal immigrants an opportunity to contract with employers in the agricultural industry. The stance the editorial took was to say that we shouldn’t be trying to create options at the state level. Instead, the opinion piece stated that immigration was an issue that should be addressed at a national level by the federal government.
Given the complete lack of leadership from Washington, is it any wonder that the states are looking for solutions to the problem?
The Obama administration has taken “leadership” role by telling immigration officials not to pursue deportation against illegal immigrants if they are not criminals. Janet Napolitano’s Department of Homeland Security recently announced their intent to provide a waiver to allow a person who is illegally residing in the United States to remain here (rather than be sent back to Mexico for 3 years) while they are filing for a visa.
These exceptions have been seen by many as a positive step for immigration reform. But by others they are viewed as election year ploys for the Democrats to win the Hispanic vote.
The political parties are currently sparring in a war of words that ignores the human lives at the center of the controversy. The Republicans focus on the word “illegal” and “breaking the law,” while the Obama administration makes small, symbolic but meaningless gestures.
Why is it that we can’t get reasonable, fair and even-handed laws to allow those who are here illegally to begin the process of legalization? If those who petition for legal status don’t have a clear, reliable path and their petition leads to them being banished from their homes and families in the U.S., how can we expect them to behave differently?
Our agriculture secretary is not asking for sweeping changes, he is asking for a pilot program. He is saying, ‘what we are doing (or not doing) now isn’t working, let’s try something else.’ In western Kansas, it is surely clear that our immigrant community members are a major part of our economy. Do we really believe Kobach’s ‘fire an illegal, make a job for an American’ stance?
In 1986, Ronald Reagan made changes to allow what he called “legalization” for those who had resided in the U.S. illegally and had entered the country before 1982. For him, this amnesty was not a dirty word, but was an issue of justice. He saw that those who came to the U.S. illegally had been contributing, taxpaying members of society and were a significant part of the economic structure of America. For Reagan, this icon of American conservatism, we were effectively disenfranchising a segment of our society who had become de facto citizens.
Where is that foresight today? When will the party of Lincoln move beyond political pandering and begin to lead?