The new Democratic Congress and Senate have just begun their work. It seems that they will take a color-by-the-numbers approach to their first 100 days. In other words, they will attempt to address some of the reasons Americans asked for political change – the war and political corruption. Aggressive clear cut action on these issues will strongly bolster their support and prove that there is a new sheriff in town.
This is a wise strategic approach except that they are not addressing the 800 pound gorilla sitting in the room along with these concerns. The gorilla leering at the nation from the corner of the room is the problem of U.S. immigrations policy.
Immigration is perhaps the second most important issue of the next two years - after the war in Iraq. The reason for its importance is five-fold:
1. The cost of many American products and services will go up as “illegals” are prosecuted or given amnesty.
2. Domestic security can be breached by Al Quaeda and other groups.
3. Hardened criminals and gang members are crossing the borders along with eager workers seeking a better life.
4. The availability of meaningful work for minorities and other Americans at the lower end of the economic spectrum will shift dramatically based upon the direction taken.
5. A dynamic increase in the number of Hispanic voters could shift the balance of power in U.S. politics.
The recent treatment of Hispanics, West Indians, and others in the immigration process could well be called “the new slavery.” Legal immigrants have taken low paying and dangerous jobs in order to make ends meet. On the other hand, illegal aliens have slipped into the nation and are beginning to undermine the delivery of basic services in education, healthcare, and law enforcement.
In addition, the INS has been very arbitrary in how it enforces the current laws. Individual legal aliens from African and Caribbean nations sometimes feel persecuted. Conversely, illegal Hispanics seem to be treated too leniently. In addition, there seems to be a mysterious lack of enforcement of the rules and regulations as far as businesses are concerned.
Neither party wants to take this issue on immediately. Democrats and Republicans alike are avoiding moving immigration to the front burner. Although everyone knows of the Republican division around the theme of immigration, the Democrats may be just as divided behind the scenes. No one plans on making it an issue in the first 100 hours or first 100 days of the 110th Congress. In fact, the Democrats have set the 6 following areas as their next focus:
1. Real Security at Home and Overseas
2. Better American Jobs – Better Pay
3. College Access for All
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.