But is immigration, in the broadest sense of the idea, really a contentious matter?
Health care reform, cap and trade -- at the heart of these questions resides an irreconcilable conflict of philosophy, be it economic doctrine or the proper role of government, and as we learned, no amount of negotiation will bridge these ideological splits.Very few Americans, on the other hand, are inherently opposed to immigration. For the most part, the controversy we face isn't about immigration at all. It's about the systematic failure of federal government to enforce the law or offer rational policy. There's a difference.
Gallup polls (and others) taken over the past decade find that about 60 percent of Americans, when asked whether immigration is generally a good thing or a bad thing for the country, believe it to be a positive. Yet when Gallup recently polled Americans about the new Arizona law that cracks down on illegal immigrants, of the three-quarters of voters who had heard about the then-pending legislation, 51 percent said they favor it, while only 39 percent said they oppose it.
Americans value immigration. They recoil from lawlessness. And frustration over the impotent border enforcement has manifested itself in a flailing overreach. Arizona's law isn't a referendum on Latinos or even immigration itself. It's an unambiguous rebuke of Washington.
There are, on one noisy periphery, those who yell "Nazi" or "racist" at any sign of enforcement. In truth, many of these folks don't believe any person can be here illegally; to them, the very existence of a border is xenophobic and an affront to human rights.
That's not to say there aren't those on the other fringe -- regularly lumping themselves in with mainstream opposition to illegal behavior -- who disapprove of any immigration on principle. They agonize over the Third World infiltrators. They are often economic protectionists and occasionally militant environmentalists who view any growth or prosperity as a death sentence for Mother Earth.