By Reynold N. Mason JD
Atlanta, Nov. 17, 2010. The critically important years of adolescence have become a time of peril for uncounted numbers of families in the US today. Take the case of Jessica Colotol, who was sentenced to jail last week in Atlanta, Georgia. She was arrested on a traffic violation that led authorities to discover her illegal status. Jessica will be allowed to finish her degree at Kennesaw State University but she faces deportation. Or take the case of Marcela Velazquez, a top high school at a Tucson Arizona high school, who hopes to study medicine. When Marcela was about to graduate she did what most college- bound high school graduates do. She began her search for a college that suits her career aspirations. For Marcella and Jessica, the past and the future collided when a road block was thrown in their path. They are undocumented students brought here as children by their parents. Now that they are adolescents the actions of their parents have come back to haunt them as ghosts from the immigration netherworld. They are unable to get a driver’s license, a summer job or a scholarship to college. According to a study by Pew Hispanic Center, 65,000 high school graduates each year, find themselves in the same quandary as Jessica and Marcela. The resourceful ones who get by this detour, face the daunting prospect of facing down document checkers at employment agencies and corporate human resources departments. It is an unenviable situation in which young people can find themselves because they were brought to the US illegally by parents when they were children. The DREAM Act is the best hope for undocumented youth trapped in this conundrum. They have no lobby and cannot vote, so this bill is perhaps their only hope of redemption.
Lemonade from Lemon
But given the mood of the country prospects for the DREAM Act are grim indeed. An article in this publication, titled: The Dream Act; supporters had better wake up just last week, laid out why comprehensive immigration reform (CIR ) may not be possible in the current toxic political environment. But DREAM can be guided through congress if its supporters use political wisdom. They must make lemonade from lemons; they must play the hand that they were dealt in the last election; they must cease to be immigration deniers. The writing has been on the wall but, it has been misread by those who would rather engage in wishful denial of the reality of the immigration climate. Over the past twelve months, dozens of states have passed or proposed laws that make life more difficult for illegal immigrants. Arizona is the most notorious, but is by no means the only state fed up with sorry state of our immigration system. The do-nothing attitude of the federal government has led states and localities to take matters into their own hands. The mood of the country and, the political climate must be factored into strategies to get Dream passed.
A study by Zogby, commissioned by the Center for Immigration Studies, found that the view of minority voters on the issue of immigration is more complex than advocates believe. 61% of Hispanics think that immigration enforcement is inadequate. 70% of blacks and 69% of Asians harbor the same sentiment. These voters disagree with the leadership of immigration advocacy groups who oppose enforcement measures. There is a gap in perception between what minority voters want and reality. They want enforcement and less immigration. Immigration advocates who beat down every proposed enforcement measure are offering their own personal opinion, not those of the voters and their communities. The majority of Americans support enforcement and oppose amnesty. Voters sent to congress, lawmakers who have expressed anti-immigration views. And this includes such high profile Hispanics as Suzanna Martinez and, Brian Sandoval, governors–elect of New Mexico and Nevada, respectively, and senator-elect Marco Rubio of Florida, all of whom are Hispanic and, all of whom are strong supporters of immigration enforcement. In fact, governors-elect Martinez and Sandoval both support the Arizona immigration law, SB 1070, and other measures to tamp down on illegal immigration.
Surveys and polls on this issue are unequivocal. Pulse Opinion Research LLC in 2009 found that 78% of Americans oppose amnesty and 88% of blacks do. Rasmussen Reports in a survey in June of 2009, found that 71% of Americans want those who hire illegals arrested and, 64% support surprise raids to arrest illegal workers. The American Council for Immigration Reform in its 2009 survey found, that 78% of Americans believe immigration has a negative impact on the cost and quality of health care and other social services. It found that 78% opposed amnesty. And CNN/Opinion Research Corp. in its poll reports, that 73% of Americans called for a drop in the number of illegal immigrants. Even more telling is a Washington Post/ABC News poll which found that 74% of the electorate thinks the government is not doing enough to keep illegals from coming into the country. Even Sheriff Joe Arpaio, notorious for his round up of illegal immigrants in Arizona polls show, is viewed favorably by the majority of Americans who believe that his policies have a positive impact on Arizona’s image. Across the board, according the Rasmussen Poll (May 2009) Americans are not in favor of making life any easier for illegal immigrants. Immigration advocates must deal with this reality.
Time to change strategy
Americans have made their feelings manifest. They are not about to ease up on illegal immigrants whom, rightly or wrongly, they blame for some of the nation’s ills. But as a people, Americans are mindful of the fact that ours is a country of immigrants. They would support an orderly system of immigration which grants relief to those already here; provided they are assured they will not be asked to grant amnesty again in 10 years to more illegals who slipped through our porous borders. They want the problem solved once and for all.
While the election results are not encouraging, they do not necessarily spell doom for Dream and comprehensive immigration reform. But immigration advocates must align their advocacy with the expressed desire of the electorate. To advocate against the grain is not just elitist it is myopic. The strategy needed is expressed in an old platitude: when the law is on your side, argue the law; when the facts are on your side argue the facts. It is time immigration advocates to change the tone of the immigration debate and adopt a conciliatory stance that conveys the impression that they are ready to compromise; that they are now ready to accede to the will of the majority of Americans, Hispanics included, who demand that our laws be enforced.
The argument cannot reasonably be made that lack of enforcement would solve our immigration problem. Sanctuary cities where illegals are insulated from the consequences of their illegal conduct encourages illegal immigration, not curtail it. These humanitarian policies, laudable though they are, exacerbate the problem. People will go where they feel safe from the long arm of the law. The liberal message of open borders and no enforcement does not resonate with Americans. And pushing it is a prescription for failure. In fact election results indicate that this approach repels voters and drives them in droves into the embrace of the anti immigration side of the issue. This is a misguided strategy and it hurts the cause of countless young people who see DREAM as their last best hope.