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EUGENE ROBINSON: What immigration 'crisis'?

Eugene Robinson

Eugene Robinson

WASHINGTON -- Now that the immigration "crisis" has solved itself, this is the perfect time for Congress and the president to agree on a package of sensible, real-world reforms.

Yeah, right, and it's also the perfect time for pigs to grow wings and take flight.

Perhaps this week's most significant news was a report from the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center showing that net migration from Mexico to the United States has slowed to a halt and may actually have reversed. That's right: There may be more people leaving this country to live in Mexico than leaving Mexico to live here.

End of the "crisis" -- which wasn't really a crisis at all, except in overwhelmed border-state cities such as Phoenix. There's no longer the slightest excuse for histrionics about the alleged threat to our way of life from invading hordes intent on -- shudder -- working hard and raising their families.

Why the turnaround? The report cites "many factors, including the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico's birth rates and broader economic conditions in Mexico."

To me, all of that makes perfect sense. Whether they have papers or not, immigrants are rational. As a general rule, they don't come here to commit crimes; they could do that at home if they wanted. They don't come here to laze around and enjoy government benefits because, well, what benefits would those be? They come to work.

But the U.S. economy fell off a cliff, meaning there is less work to be had. Mexico's economy, while not unscathed, is improving. And the Obama administration has dramatically stepped up border enforcement while carrying out a record number of deportations. Suddenly, both for Mexicans who considered immigrating legally and those who might have been tempted to come without documents, the risk-reward equation has changed.

According to the Pew report, there are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States; six out of 10 are Mexican. The number of immigrants without papers has actually been falling. Wouldn't this be a perfect time to take a deep breath and start talking about reasonable ways to engineer a more rational immigration policy?

Yes it would, but don't hold your breath. Apparently, we're going to have a lot of shouting without actually trying to find a solution. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of Arizona's "driving while brown" law that instructs police to challenge and, if necessary, apprehend anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant. The law forbids racial profiling, but the truth is that it effectively guaranteesprofiling.

The administration argues that the state law usurps the federal government's prerogative to set immigration policy. The court is expected to decide the case this summer, and the ruling's impact may be less practical -- since illegal immigration, I repeat, is already on the decline -- than political.

Democrats will react with thunderous outrage if the court upholds the Arizona law -- but if you stand outside the back room where the pollsters and campaign strategists work, you might hear the slapping of high fives. Anything that draws attention to the Republican Party's extremist position on immigration will only reinforce a tendency that Mitt Romney recently characterized as "doom" -- the headlong rush of Latino voters into a waiting Democratic embrace.

Barack Obama won a remarkable two-thirds of the Latino vote in 2008. This year, according to the polls, he's running even stronger among the biggest minority group in the country. If Republicans don't find a way to win more Latino support, Obama will be hard to beat. In the long term, if Latinos become a more-or-less permanent Democratic constituency like African-Americans have, the GOP will inexorably go the way of the Whigs.

So that is what this year's immigration "debate" will be about: how to reap political gain and avoid political loss.

What should our elected officials be talking about? I'd suggest they start with the obvious solution.

We don't need to build a giant wall along the Rio Grande; Obama has already "hardened" the border. We need a Reagan-style amnesty that would allow the great majority of undocumented immigrants to stay, along with reforms that give Mexicans and others a realistic hope of being able to come here someday.

Assuming they want to.

Eugene Robinson is an associate editor and columnist for The Washington Post. Email him at eugenerobinson@washpost.com. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/eugenerobinson.

Comments

FordGalaxy 2 years, 3 months ago

The Arizona law effectively mirrors the federal law, that the federal government has been incredibly lax about carrying out. Arizona pushed for such a law because they bear the brunt of illegal immigrant crime and they also contend (just like every other border state) with the vicious drug cartels. Arizona would not have pushed such a law if the feds would do their jobs.

And as for your "driving while brown" comment...if you believe that, then you must believe the federal immigration status law allows for racial profiling as well, seeing as Arizona mirrored federal law. The police may only ask for papers after stopping someone for reasonable suspicion of another crime (i.e. a traffic stop, or red-flagged plates).

If Obama "hardened" the border in the same way he saved the economy, then we're in great shape. And yeah, that was sarcasm...

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JV 2 years, 3 months ago

"We need a Reagan-style amnesty that would allow the great majority of undocumented immigrants to stay,"

The Morton Memos: http://www.fairus.org/morton-memos-summary

Under growing pressure from open borders groups that accuse the Obama Administration of removing too many illegal aliens, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in early 2011 began to implement formal measures to relax the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. DHS has set forth its new policies regarding removal in a series of memos issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton. Together, these memos constitute nothing less than the granting of administrative amnesty to hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens currently in the United States.

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JV 2 years, 3 months ago

“…the GOP will inexorably go the way of the Whigs.” Maybe so but not before this November. Nobody can win elections with just 29% of the population vote.

From the 2010 Census: The overwhelming majority (97 percent) of the total U.S. population reported only one race in 2010. This group totaled 299.7 million. Of these, the largest group reported white alone (223.6 million), accounting for 72 percent of all people living in the United States.

The black or African-American population totaled 38.9 million and represented 13 percent of the total population.

Hispanics comprised 16 percent of the total U.S. population of 308.7 million.

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FordGalaxy 2 years, 3 months ago

"In the long term, if Latinos become a more-or-less permanent Democratic constituency like African-Americans have, the GOP will inexorably go the way of the Whigs."


And have you ever asked yourself how that "permanent Democratic constituency" status is working out for the African-American community? The places that are Democrat controlled (Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City) all suffer from the same problems that plague the black community. Are African-Americans really better off supporting the Democrats part-and-parcel? Why is a self-made success story like Herman Cain considered a sell-out because he chose the GOP over the Democrats?

If you vote for a political party, solely because of your skin color, then you are doing yourself no favors. Or am I a racist simply for asking these questions?

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news2me 2 years, 3 months ago

"Barack Obama won a remarkable two-thirds of the Latino vote in 2008. This year, according to the polls, he's running even stronger among the biggest minority group in the country. If Republicans don't find a way to win more Latino support, Obama will be hard to beat. In the long term, if Latinos become a more-or-less permanent Democratic constituency like African-Americans have, the GOP will inexorably go the way of the Whigs."

President Obama did not give Latinos that voted for him what they wanted. Blacks and hispanics have suffered worse than any other groups under Obama's leadership as well. Illegal Aliens can't vote, now can they? Are the Democrats trying to create a larger socioeconomic group that can't survive without entitlements and a mega socialist federal government?

Illegal Aliens of today are not those of the Ellis Island era. They are not even close to being equal to those in the Reagan period. The Invader Aliens of the past 15 years have been given more opprtunity to do the right thing and become legal citizens. Why should our country grant Amnesty to a group of people that have proven they are not worthy of US citizenship. You give them what they want, they will continue to take.

You can try and take what you want, but you will never achieve equality, power and wealth unless you earn it.

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Sthrnldy 2 years, 3 months ago

Bless their hearts, this liberal whining is getting old. YAWN! Go right ahead, knock yourslves out and vote your precious Obama back into office. You will get more of the same, and that is EXACTLY what you deserve. 4 more years of hope and change is going to be fun to watch. Amnesty didn't happen during his first reign of power, what makes you think he is going to accomplish ANYTHING in Round 2?

I for one am so-looking forward to the day when I am old and gray and be considered the MINORITY in this country. We have certainly been given the best examples of how to complain and pull out the race card when things don't go our way. SO looking forward to driving white, my kids getting their affirmitive action, and my grandchildren getting to pick the college of their choice because of the color of their skin. All the hard work will pay off and my ENTITLEMENT YEARS will be living on Easy Street! I LIKING IT!

XOXO, Redneck Sthrnldy

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kevin 2 years, 3 months ago

Mr. Robinson. Why don't you write about the latest Obama attack? "The House bill would keep interest rates for subsidized Stafford loans at 3.4 percent for another year. Without congressional action, they would rise automatically to 6.8 percent on July 1, a condition set in a law Democrats pushed through Congress five years ago."

You sit there and say nothing about Obama telling college students about the GOP is trying to increase student loan rates when in fact the House today passed a bill to keep it the same for one more year. Why only one more year? Just read my quote from a local paper. The Democrats are the ones that passed the bill to raise the rates after this year. You are really a very poor writer and misprints the truth for Obama's gain.

"The House bill would keep interest rates for subsidized Stafford loans at 3.4 percent for another year. Without congressional action, they would rise automatically to 6.8 percent on July 1, a condition set in a law Democrats pushed through Congress five years ago."

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notblind 2 years, 3 months ago

We do need immigration reform but it would have nothing to do with illegal immigration from south of the border where all that we need is enforcement. No, the immigration reform I am thinking of concerns the H1 visa programs that allow US corporations to import cheaper foreign labor to replace highly skilled and highly paid US citizens. These US citizens pay much more taxes than the lower paid H1 workers. Why would the gooberment want to encourage this ?

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kevin 2 years, 3 months ago

Chew on this a while, Eugene: As for the illegal issue, why hasn't the activists been out in force complaining about the fact that farmers and others are hiring illegals at a price a slave would work for? They are all being treated as slaves and no one, not even this horrible Federal government of ours is looking at this correctly. Instead, the Congress subsidizes farmers so those owners can stay fat rich at the expense of using slaves. No one wants to talk about this point. How do the farmers and others get away with paying less than minimum wages to any worker? Do they simply look the other way? If produce prices go up, so be it. WE JUST BUY LESS PEOPLE. Even the illegals running around fussing about our laws don't even address the slave issue. How stupid they all are.

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