"Walking the Plank" - Immigrationby Kyle Michaelis
We support, welcome and encourage the assimilation of all legal immigrants and others who are here by due process and are productive, law-abiding citizens.
In fairness to them, we support stringent federal efforts to stem the tide of illegal immigration.
Well, I think Nebraska Democrats can do better than that - no matter how contentious, no matter how politically complicated. The problem is that I'm having a hard time coming up with the proper language. Care to lend a brother a hand?
Now, in my mind, there must be several components to a broad Immigration plank: first, a primary and immediate emphasis on securing our nation's borders. This may actually be a better fit under national security, focusing just as much on gaining control of our nation's shipping ports as our ports of entry for migration purposes. Clearly, there is legitimate danger in not taking action to cure these long-neglected but glaringly obvious failures of public policy that the Republicans have completely refused to touch over the last 6 years.
This, of course, would fit in well with Sen. Nelson's talk of "securing our borders first" and his suggestion that border security need not and should not be bogged down in the more divisive issues of complicated but ultimately necessary comprehensive immigration reform.
From there, however, I think Nebraska Democrats have an obligation to lay-out an agenda for the future that Sen. Nelson might not be quite so quick to embrace.
Amongst the proposals I'm considering is a declaration of support for a pathway to citizenship for those already in the country who have no criminal record. We have benefitted from these peoples' labor (or, our corporations have). For economic reasons, we have been complicit and even could be said to have encouraged the endless waves of illegal border-crossings. It is time for a total break from such short-sighted policy, but innocent laborers and their families who are already in the United States should not be made to suffer for such a long overdue transition.
You say it's amnesty. I say you're goddamn right.
I might also propose that the NDP stand in opposition to any sort of temporary or guest worker program that could forever undermine the American dream by excluding a class of people from its promise whose labor we are otherwise willing to exploit. Those who present no security concern pose no greater danger than they ever have and should be welcomed into our country and into full participation in our democracy in an orderly fashion. Anything less makes less of who we are as a nation and what we have always meant to the world.....what we must continue to mean to the world if we're truly serious about exporting freedom across the globe.
It also seems to stand to reason that Nebraska Democrats must call for vigorous enforcement of our nation's labor and employment laws, with harsher penalties for violating employers, to establish order in a system that will otherwise result in chaos from which no substantial progress will be made in any of the above immigration policies. People come here for work. So long as that work remains available to those who enter the country illegally, they will find a way to do so. With the threat of global terrorism, such conditions can no longer be tolerated.
So, what do you say? Do you think Nebraska Democrats can and should reach some sort of consensus on comprehensive immigration reform? If nothing else, I'm sure there's support for a vague call for securing our nation's borders, but - to leave that as the beginning and the end of the issue, an issue that we claim should be wholly separate from immigration in the first place - leaves a gaping hole in our party's statement of principles and positions.
We can do better than that. If I have any say in the matter, we will do better than that this weekend, though I'm receptive to your own thoughts, concerns, and proposals on this issue for which we can no longer hide from our better nature as both cautious and compassionate Americans.
In fact, beyond the quite reasonable concession to Nelson prioritizing securing our nation's borders (in its many forms), I'm quite comfortable with the language used in the national Democratic Party's 2004 Platform and believe it to be an excellent starting-off point:
We will extend the promise of citizenship to those still struggling for freedom. Today's immigration laws do not reflect our values or serve our security, and we will work for real reform. The solution is not to establish a massive new status of second-class workers; that betrays our values and hurts all working people. Undocumented immigrants within our borders who clear a background check, work hard and pay taxes should have a path to earn full participation in America. We will hasten family reunification for parents and children, husbands and wives, and offer more English-language and civic education classes so immigrants can assume all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. As we undertake these steps, we will work with our neighbors to strengthen our security so we are safer from those who would come here to harm us. We are a nation of immigrants, and from Arab-Americans in California to Latinos in Florida, we share the dream of a better life in the country we love.
A tad verbose but a whole lot better than saying nothing. Wouldn't you agree?