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LeRoy: Immigration reform without amnesty a fruitless aspiration

From the Left

By Brendan LeRoy

Highlighted by the arrival of central american children, immigration reform has once again been revitalized as a major issue for this year’s upcoming mid-term elections. Even New Hampshire, 2,000 miles from the U.S./Mexican border, has made this issue a major platform for the U.S. Senate campaign.

Two years ago, the executive order known as DACA was issued by the president, granting limited protection for some undocumented immigrants by deferring deportation. He has also indicated his intent to expand DACA in the future to reduce the splitting of families. House Speaker John Boehner is leading a coalition of Republicans vehemently opposing this among many other executive orders issued by the president claiming that they are unconstitutional, some going so far as to suggest impeachment. This action taken by the president, however, is due to Congress’ unwillingness to pass any legislation addressing immigration.

The Right claims the President has violated the powers of his office by ordering amnesty. It is imperative to stress that only Congress has the authority to define the process of permanent residency or naturalization. Since DACA does no more than defer deportation by two years, by definition DACA cannot be amnesty. Despite only minute changes being applied to the vastly inadequate immigration policy, the right-wing criticizes the president as if he has enacted a massive and unconstitutional overhaul of the immigration system.

Republicans are quick to criticize the president but unwilling to act on their empty rhetoric. The Right believes that the law is not enforced and advocates for stronger penalties, building border fences, increasing border policing and focusing attention on finding and deporting those currently residing in the country. This issue is not new, over a decade of excessive illegal immigration has passed, yet no Congress has been successful in implementing a sustainable fix to current policy. The Right argues that immediately upon entering the country the immigrant has violated the law. This asserts that from the moment an immigrant enters the country he has become a criminal and should be treated as such. The Left argues that the only reasonable and sustainable fix includes a pathway to citizenship. With the lack of consensus, no compromises have been met and subsequently the system remains fragmented.

Congressional Republicans are looking at this issue through the lens of their pro-American, anti-immigrant, ultra-conservative base. Ironically, the Right is quick to advocate invading other countries and implementing American values, yet when it comes to others occupying our turf, these imperialists become hypocrites.

To fix the system we must open our minds to consider all possible arguments. Republicans stubbornly stand by the law and desert the 11 million people residing in the United States who call this land home. The contemplation of deporting such a large number of people is impractical; no plausible option exists that does not also include a pathway to citizenship.

A simple explanation why Republicans stand their ground on this issue relates to their absurd hatred of entitlement. By granting naturalization or permanent residency to a group of 11 million low-income individuals, their legal status would expand eligibility for assistance programs despised by the Right. Republicans hint this frustration, recently exposing their anger that refugee children are being allowed to attend schools and citizen children suffer with crowded classrooms. Republicans would rather see these 11 million people remain in the dark than to present a path for integration into society. The Right fears an overhaul of immigration would not only grant immigrants currently residing in the country eligibility to safety-net programs, but also open the floodgates to larger numbers of migrants who could tax the system.

This country has been very fortunate, but Republicans claim we have neither the resources nor the obligation to utilize government to tackle pressing social issues. America now rests 85th in the world in income inequality. Despite having a quarter of the world’s wealth, we have a national debt of $17 trillion. The Right not only stands by the culprit Reagan-era tax reforms that have led to these crises, they have anointed Reagan a saint and turned his trickle-down economics into a preposterous proverb. They are steadfast in their opposition to tax increases, desire eliminating programs alleviating the poor and persist it is necessary to maintain a military larger than the next 17 nations combined. We have sufficient resources at hand to deal with the immigration crisis but one political party is holding advancement on the agenda hostage.

The country has the resources to incorporate all undocumented immigrants and ease up the requirements for entry into the United States. The perception that immigrants come to the United States for the sake of abusing our entitlement programs is not accurate. Many undocumented immigrants have little access to safety-net programs yet they still come to this country living behind the shadow of the law. They migrate to the United States to flee violence and poverty; simply being in this country permits the opportunity to turn unobtainable dreams into reality. They leave for the United States in the hope to work hard and achieve prosperity; knowing this should soften conservatives’ hearts for what is more capitalist than working hard to be liberated from poverty?

Cast off the fact the undocumented have violated the law: they are people. They were born into lands riddled with terror, violence and poverty. For some, fleeing to this prosperous nation is their only option. We are so abundant in resources that turning desperate people away is an act of cruelty. It is critical to fix the law but it is impossible to do so without a pathway to citizenship. It is imperative we do this now; maintaining this state of limbo is coldhearted when we are equipped to promptly address the issue. Ask yourself, who should be condemned: He who crosses an arbitrary political border to enhance his quality of life or the nation with everything who turns away the poor?

Brendan LeRoy is a junior majoring in linguistics.

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