There is no chance this small group of xenophobes will succeed -- ultimately. The victories of their predecessors have been short-lived and so obviously wrong-headed we've always finally abandoned them, from modifying and then repealing the Asian exclusion acts to scrapping the nationalities quotas. But we need to quit pretending that the "No Amnesty" crowd is anything other than what it is: a tiny group of angry, frightened and prejudiced loudmouths backed by political opportunists who exploit them.
The status quo -- largely turning a blind eye toward the 12 million illegal aliens who work, pay taxes and keep their noses clean, while stepping up border enforcement and selective internal enforcement -- may not be the worst possible outcome in the current debate on immigration reform. It is the coward's way out of our current dilemma. But there are other problems with allowing the xenophobes to derail comprehensive immigration reform.
We've struggled long and hard as a nation to overcome our prejudices, enduring a Civil War and countless dead for the right to be judged by the content of our character not the color of our skin or where we came from. Our country is the greatest, freest, most powerful and optimistic nation in the history of the world -- and our people are good, decent, fair and the hardest working anywhere. That is why immigrants -- even those who look and sound different, from nearby and far away -- come here, often with only the clothes on their backs but a fire in their bellies to succeed. They make all of us richer, and by embracing and welcoming them, we make ourselves better.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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