Obama, Congress have no stomach for dealing with immigration - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Obama, Congress have no stomach for dealing with immigration

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Posted: Thursday, August 12, 2010 12:16 pm

With less than three months before the important midterm elections it is clear that Congress has no stomach for straightening out the immigration mess nor for that matter does the Obama administration, although the president has at least paid lip service to the idea.

Meanwhile, back along the southwest border, illegal immigrants continue to stream into a country that has fewer and fewer jobs for them. The debate about how far a state can go to fill the void caused by congressional inaction rages on following a Justice department suit to set aside Arizona's controversial law that would put immigration matters into state hands. A federal district judge has ruled parts of the law unconstitutional. But the case is clearly headed for the Supreme Court.

Republicans apparently want the strictest enforcement of the current mishmash of laws, giving no quarter even to the most productive of those aliens, including students who came here as teenagers, have finished high school and are in college. Majority Democrats don't seem to have a clue.

There are an estimated 700,000-plus in the student category, according to recent news reports. The U.S. immigration authorities have practically declared a moratorium on deporting these young men and women. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is, it seems, concentrating its resources on ridding the country of aliens who have committed crimes. Not a bad thing.

Also, the early summer debate about the citizenship status of children born to aliens in this country seems to have subsided at least temporarily with support declining for proposals to amend the Fourteenth Amendment to declare these offspring also illegal. That at least signals some hope that calmer heads will prevail to reject a very bad idea.

All this, of course, is merely to say that among the worst domestic problems in recent history will continue to resist solution because the nation's officials have no clue about what to do or the courage to do it if they did. For all the bashing of George W. Bush by Democrats and historians, he at least tried to push legislation that would bring some order out of the chaos. Worker programs and amnesty and a variety of ways one might legitimately become a citizen of this country were scoffed at by those who lumped the good aliens with the bad and demanded they all be expelled post haste.

What impact all this will have on the elections is anyone's guess. Probably not what could be expected given the volatility of the issue. Obviously, politicians bordering Mexico all seem to be on the same page out of necessity when it comes to immigration, calling for action while walking a tightrope with Hispanic voters.

The frustration over inaction can be seen in the fact that almost a dozen states are pushing their own legislation or plans that incorporate at least a portion of Arizona's law that would require state and local authorities to also become immigration agents, identifying aliens, detaining them and reporting them to U.S. officials for deportation. It is of course a form of profiling no matter how much state authorities deny it since the overwhelming majority of those who would be under scrutiny are Hispanic, many of whom already are citizens of the United States and would have to continuously prove it.

Revising the Fourteenth Amendment, which was an add-on to the abolition of slavery, is not a new issue. Hardliners on immigration have been calling for its repeal for years without success. It is an emotionally charged issue brought on by the fact it affects children and families. Statistics also show that far fewer women find their way here merely to have babies than critics of the amendment contend. So-called "birth tourism" is estimated at only a few thousand. At the same time, the number of children of illegal immigrants already living here is put at about 4 million.

Revoking birthright citizenship clearly would increase the number of illegal aliens living here, creating whole generations of non-citizens and retarding assimilation, critics contend.

All this has a terribly long way to go.

E-mail Dan K. Thomasson, former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service, at thomassondan@aol.com.

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