Now that the government has decided to wait until February before coming to terms with its crippling debt addiction, it’s time for some other subjects to dominate the national political conversation. Next on deck: immigration! President Barack Obama, who has been a key supporter of the proposed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act and a so-called “pathway to citizenship,” has vowed to make comprehensive immigration reform a priority. Naturally, as soon as this discussion returned to the limelight, the media degraded it into an incomprehensible collage of misinformed talking points and dramatic oversimplification. Some of them tell us the DREAM Act is the ultimate answer to the immigration problem; others claim Obama secretly wants to deliver every high-paying job in the nation to “illegals.” The truth — that Obama’s idea of immigration reform is neither perfect nor treasonous — is rarely mentioned.
The DREAM Act is like most of Obama’s ideas in that the reform it offers is limited, but still an improvement on the current state of affairs. It’s the kind of legislation that has become a hallmark of the Democratic Party. As opposed to no reform at all, it’s certainly a good thing, but it’s not bold or broad enough to rock the boat of the political and economic status quo. The DREAM Act provides a way for the children of undocumented immigrants to become United States citizens, which is to be celebrated, but it also sets very strict terms as to who can stay in the U.S. and under what circumstances. It is a grudging and hesitant reform, reluctantly dragged from the grasping fingers of the money-driven political machine.
Most young people who want to avoid deportation will need to either enroll in college and suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous student loan interest rates, or sign up for the military and get sent off to kill or be killed in some meaningless display of international genital comparison. Moreover, the DREAM Act does nothing whatsoever to address the supreme foundational injustice upon which this country was constructed: the plight of indigenous Americans who are, to this day, consistently denied recognition as human beings and who probably wish their ancestors had maintained a stricter immigration policy back in the 15th century. Obama’s ideas on a “pathway to citizenship” are similarly mundane — background checks, a lengthy waiting process, increased border security and mandatory English lessons are lynchpins of any reform he might recommend.
Of course, Obama’s watered-down, inoffensive notions of immigration reform are as demonized by the political right as they are praised to the skies by the political left. The conservative media seem to have doubled down on their refusal to demonstrate compassion for fellow human beings, promoting a xenophobic fear of “aliens” and accusing Obama of gleefully tossing the keys to America to an unruly gang of criminals and thugs. Chris Crane, president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, recently spoke in an interview on The Laura Ingraham Show:
“It is no longer illegal in the United States of America to be in this country illegally. You know, even if you have been convicted of multiple criminal convictions, we often cannot even put you into removal proceedings, into deportation proceedings, because you are protected by this president. And it’s basically an open-borders policy that once you make it past the border and you’re in the interior of the United States, you’re free.”
The falsehood of that statement is equal parts blatant and breathtaking. Obama has deported more people during his first four years in office than his predecessor, George W. Bush (liberals remember him as the devil incarnate; conservatives can never seem to remember him at all). During his first term, Obama deported 1.5 million people, more than any other president in history during the same span and is now pushing 2 million. The idea that he is some sort of Oval Office anarchist who loves nothing more than flaunting immigration law is as ludicrous as the idea that is a socialist, a Muslim or a Kenyan.
It’s time the people of the U.S. got over our collective “blame the victim” complex and remember that helping the less fortunate is not a sign of weakness or naiveté, but rather the best and strongest part of our humanity. Undocumented immigrants aren’t lazy schemers who stroke their sinister facial hair while plotting the best way to earn a minimum wage job that could have gone to a healthier, worthier white man. They are desperate, courageous people who risk their lives and their freedom to help themselves and their children out of crippling poverty. It’s a problem that will require a thoughtful, intelligent, carefully organized and comprehensive solution, for which we will need a serious, informed political debate in an open and transparent public forum. Unfortunately, all we’re actually getting is the same old sound and fury that most Americans have long since relegated to the background like so much white noise.
Originally published in The Lumberjack (http://jackcentral.com/opinion/2013/11/opinion-obamas-centrist-immigration-reform-proposals-elicit-extremist-media-response/)