In the aftermath of the presidential campaign, there has been a great deal of public discussion on the topic of immigration. Republicans, after losing the Latino vote to President Barack Obama in a dramatic embarrassment, decided they could no longer afford to alienate this fast-growing demographic group.
So now, immigration is firmly the No. 1 topic on the national stage. We have some of the key figures of the Republican right, having found religion in the need to court Latino Americans, calling passionately for rewriting the nation’s immigration laws.
It seems that the election results of last November were a chilling harbinger of bad news to come for the GOP. After all, you can’t lose 72 percent of the Latino vote to the Democrats and expect to be a viable party in the coming presidential contests. As a result, we are now treated to the very entertaining spectacle of such conservative Republican figures as Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of Georgia scrambling to make their party palatable to the growing Latino vote.
Until recently, the Republican right has been so harsh on the topic of immigration that its newfound warmth is spellbinding. The Republican embrace of immigration reform comes just months after its standard bearer, Mitt Romney, reduced the party’s position on the topic to the absurd and preposterous policy of “self-deportation” for people who are living in the United States illegally. But the November election has changed the tune of the Republicans, who are now singing lustily about how 11 million people deserve the opportunity to have a full role in American life.
With that, the Republicans have been working overtime to beat the president to the punch, presenting along with some Democratic senators a plan to address the issue of immigration. At the moment, there is far from widespread agreement about how the immigration laws should be refashioned. For example, amnesty, a humane and reasonable feature, remains unpalatable to the Republican right.
Nonetheless, there is welcome movement. And the president, showing a confidence and resolve that was often less than apparent in his first term, made clear that he would present his own plan if Congress dawdled. Action, the president said, must follow. “If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away,” Obama said.
African-American onlookers should not feel passive about this topic. While immigration has been treated as a buzzword to appeal to one segment of the population, it is an arena that includes Haitians and other Caribbean citizens as well as men and women from a wide swath of Africa, seeking to find a more prosperous life.
A compassionate, reasonable approach that leads to citizenship is the path that should be taken. The nation’s immigration policy should be based on some core values, not on the politics of winning elections in 2016 and beyond. The president rightly emphasized the importance of a broad, historical perspective on the topic, pointing out that for centuries, people came to the United States from Germany, Ireland, Poland, Russia and Italy seeking better lives for themselves and their families.The same is true of those who come here today from Mexico and Bangladesh, from Haiti, Mali, Guinea and Senegal.
Our nation’s policy should be one of being more welcoming to immigrants while doing all the necessary work to maintain protected borders. But our immigration policy should be cemented in the notion that the country is better off with the energy, ideas, skills and talents of people who come here from throughout the world.