Time to end the impasse on immigration reform

February 10, 2014 

It is like Lucy and the football. Every year, she puts the ball on the ground, and poor Charlie Brown wants to believe this is the year. And then he winds up flat on his back again.

The American people can identify with Charles Schulz’s cartoon hero.

Time and again, their representatives in the United States Congress have made a little noise about addressing illegal immigration but adjourned without having taken any meaningful action.

It is an issue President Obama wants to address by finding ways for many of those in the country illegally to attain citizenship. That’s not a liberal or conservative agenda, but a practical one. At one time, it was believed there were up to 14 million illegal immigrants including children in the United States, but because of the underground lives those immigrants have to live, no one really knows the number.

To ignore this issue is irresponsible. To believe that it is possible to deport all those millions of people is delusional.

Many of these immigrants have been working in the country for years. Many also have had children in the United States, which makes those children American citizens. And the children of illegal immigrants had no choice in terms of crossing the border; their parents brought them.

Some of those children have gone to school, including college, and achieved success. Today, on the ballot for student body president at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will be Emilio Vicente, who with his mother came to the United States in 1997 via a cattle train through Mexico from Guatemala. He spent his childhood in Siler City, where his parents worked in a chicken plant. He has applied for temporary legal status.

A young man such as this, striving against the odds, determined to better himself and through his candidacy his school, would seem to be not just a worthy candidate for citizenship but one who should be on an “Uncle Sam Wants You” poster.

There is a multitude of such stories around the nation. Even U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, recognizes it’s time to do something about illegal immigration and to carve a path toward legal status, at the least. But it now appears even the speaker’s desire for action is not going to prevail.

The tea party element driving some parts of the Republican Party wants all GOP members of Congress to keep the blindfolds on with regard to illegal immigration.

It’s a preposterous position, but it seems to be working. Second District U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, a Republican from Dunn, is a conservative in anyone’s book. But when she dared to indicate she might look at suggestions about immigration reform coming from Boehner and others, she was roundly criticized by an even more conservative Republican primary opponent.

It’s this kind of attitude and not-so-subtle threats from the tea party that have stalled talk of immigration reform. And this is despite a tough stance taken by Boehner, who emphasizes border security and all sorts of fines and other hoops for illegal immigrants who might want to obtain legal status.

This is a nation of immigrants, excepting Native Americans, and it is neither fair nor responsible to blame illegal immigrants entirely for their plight. Yes, they have broken the law, and there must be legitimate requirements attached to their bids for citizenship. But several generations of members of Congress have helped to complicate the issue by avoiding it.

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