There is still a large, majority constituency in the American public for enforcing our immigration laws. And that, surprisingly, includes a large majority of Hispanics and Asians.
You read that last sentence correctly.
As a Pew Hispanic Center study notes, "When it comes to increasing enforcement of immigration laws at U.S. borders, the surveys find that two-thirds (68%) of Hispanics and 73% of Asian Americans say they approve of this proposal." (p. 18)
Pause here for a moment to take in what Pew reported.
That organization, a major, reputable, relatively non-partisan polling organization (the Pew Research Center, of which the Hispanic Center is a part, calls itself a "fact tank" rather than a think tank) has found that even among those groups that would benefit most from any legalization agreement of illegal migrants, there is a basic understanding that enforcement is an important element of immigration reform.
Yes, both groups, Hispanics and Asians, support some form of legalization, but that is not news, nor is it the most important finding of that survey.
The implications of that finding are substantial, although I have nowhere seen them discussed. Most reports on the Pew findings stress that some safety from deportation is more important than a path to citizenship for most Hispanics and many Asians. That is important, because it provides a solid piece of evidence that while a pathway to citizenship may be ur-requirement of immigration advocates, it is not for those communities themselves.
Hispanics overwhelmingly support increased enforcement of immigration laws. Asians overwhelming support increased enforcement of immigration laws.
Since enforcement is going to be part of any immigration deal that passes both houses of Congress and gets signed into law, the support of those two communities for enforcement is a crucial linchpin for any agreement that puts into place real immigration reform.
It appears that the very key element of enforcement that has motivated ordinary Americans, some Republicans, independents, and conservatives to oppose the massive Senate immigration bill is a common-ground position.
After years of neglect from presidents and other political leaders over a number of decades, with the exception of border-control tightening after 9/11, a real consensus has emerged.
Yet, that consensus exists side by side with determined efforts by vocal groups, amplified in some cases by those holding public, civic, or religious office, to substantially loosen and narrow immigration enforcement efforts.
It's an unstable, and ultimately unsustainable, political and legal standoff that is damaging the legal, civic, and cultural fabric of the country
It's possible to discuss who is mostly responsible for this state of affairs – pandering politicians, companies looking for a cheap and reliable labor supply, immigrant advocates unwilling to put any limits on their theories of "rights" or inclusion, those motivated by narrowly focused compassion, ethnic-group championing "their" members, and others. There is a great deal of responsibility to spread around.
Its important to assign responsibility, but it is even more important to do something about the current country-damaging state of affairs. Those who care deeply about this country must be willing to take difficult steps to right the country's immigration impasse without allowing it to be set up for another deeply divisive immigration debate that mirrors the present one.
Next: Why Conservatives Should Consider Agreeing to a Real Immigration Reform Bill