Ellmers shows courage on immigration reform

February 20, 2014 

Republican Renee Ellmers, who won a seat in Congress by beating long-time Democratic incumbent Rep. Bob Etheridge in the 2nd District in 2010, is a conservative by anyone’s definition.

Unless that anyone is Frank Roche, her GOP primary opponent. The radio talk show host is blasting away on the immigration issue, taking the easy way out. He wants no immigration reform and no “amnesty” for any of the 11 million illegal immigrants now in the United States. He can be expected to attack Ellmers on the issue even more now.

Why? Because Ellmers has had the gumption to veer away from the ridiculous tea party hard-line and say, as she did recently in Cary, that she believes in immigration reform.

“If I can do anything in Washington,” she said, “I’d like to solve this problem.”

Better duck, Rep. Ellmers. That sounds positively reasonable and therefore foreign, no pun intended, to the tea partyers who have their blinders firmly in place and want to believe that immigrants now living illegally in the U.S. can somehow be deported or deport themselves.

Ellmers’ rather broad ideas about immigration reform include an emphasis on border security. That’s a catch-term used by Republicans who want to try to appease, somehow, the more conservative elements in their party by talking about border fences and guards as a first step in reform.

Stopping short

That’s mainly political rhetoric. The United States needs more secure borders, but the idea that fences and guards can secure every inch of the border is fanciful. Emphasizing that part of reform is primarily about making people feel better.

Ellmers also believes there should be some route to legal status for immigrants now illegally in the country, but for her that doesn’t mean citizenship. Again, she’s certainly more realistic than tea party Republicans, but legal status coupled with fines and a multitude of other hoops seems close to citizenship. There’s no reason to stop short.

Of course, those immigrants who want to stay in the country should be able to demonstrate that they are law-abiding, that they can work and that they have ties here. But should those who meet whatever criteria are established then be expected to stay in citizenship limbo forever? People who have children who are American citizens by birth especially come to mind.

Doing nothing no option

Ellmers’ district includes agricultural businesses that rely on immigrant labor, and that is a conundrum for Republicans. Business elements are among those turning up the pressure on Congress to move ahead, at long last, with immigration reform. Otherwise, those business owners who depend upon immigrant workers will find themselves uncertain of their labor supply.

Ellmers knows these people and enjoys their support. And the 50-year-old congresswoman also has developed connections with leaders of the U.S. House, including Speaker John Boehner, who recognize the ever-increasing need for immigration reform.

There really is no alternative to reform. Do nothing? The problems with having 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally – from educating their children to local law enforcement having to deal with deportation to the living conditions of some and the exploitation of others – will only get worse.

Congress has avoided doing anything meaningful about immigration for decades, and presidents who have tried to lead have typically given up after finding a lack of determination on Capitol Hill.

That Ellmers would even demonstrate an interest in doing something and offer general ideas about how to do it represents political courage. It’s not something that an opponent with no ideas on true immigration reform should be using to attack her. Surely, the primary voters of the 2nd District will not let themselves be so manipulated.

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