The United States needs immigration reform. Doing nothing is not good for the economy, as America has always benefited in the long run from immigration. Doing nothing is not good for social cohesion, as a nation with 11 million undocumented people who share no sense of belonging is fractured by definition.
Doing nothing is not an option. President George W. Bush realized it but could not see his efforts to fruition.
President Barack Obama also realizes it, and the Senate knew it when last year it passed comprehensive immigration reform with the traditional ingredients — beefed up border enforcement and a long wait for legal status granted to those who pay fines for coming here illegally but otherwise have a clean record.
Immigration reform is so pressing that it ought to be a bipartisan effort, and to some extent it is. But in the House, the die-hard opponents — often Republican — are so repulsed by anything that remotely smacks of amnesty that they don’t care if nothing is done. They don’t care if the Republican Party continues to alienate Latinos, thus reducing its chances of winning key states in presidential elections.
How much doing nothing on immigration has become a conservative obsession in some quarters is starkly illustrated by the news from Capitol Hill. Republicans who do favor some reform are supporting the Encourage New Legalized Immigrants to Start Training Act, or Enlist Act, HR 2377. As a watered-down version of the Dream Act, the proposal would open a path to permanent residency for those who came to this country without legal status before the age of 15 if they enlist in the military.
The plan is to attach the proposal to the annual defense policy bill. It would seem to garner quick support — if you want to enjoy America’s freedoms, then help defend them. But even conservative reverence for the armed forces is not enough. Loud opposition to the idea has surfaced, dividing Republicans further.
Apparently nothing can be done to purge the undocumented immigrants of their original sin, even if they are prepared to lay down their lives for the rest of the country. Doing nothing is not an option; instead, it has become a cruel and illogical obsession.