Americans are frustrated by a lot of things these days and immigration is no exception. What specifically annoys people about immigration is different depending on their vantage point. Those who are caught up in the labyrinth of immigration processing and the complicated inner-workings of the immigration agency are frustrated. Those who can’t even get their foot in the agencies door because they have no way to legalize are stuck in limbo. Then there are those who may have no personal connection to immigration and have never dealt with the difficult process of legalization, but are concerned about the all too common stories about the havoc born from our broken immigration system. So it isn’t at all surprising that many Americans are looking high and low for solutions.
What’s disturbing, however, is that the space left open by federal inaction on immigration has been seized on by harsh, restrictionist, anti-immigrant groups who are creating a franchise of anti-immigrant legislation that they hope to duplicate across the nation. You don’t have to search very far to find the groups behind this law who were launched and funded by John Tanton (the notorious Michigan opthamologist who has long funded anti-immigration groups). It also takes minimal digging to see these groups’ connections and the tactics they use to spread SB1070 style legislation.
So if these bad guys and their intolerant “throw them all out” approach won’t work, what can states do? Finding the solutions that will satisfy different group lies in understanding what frustrates them about our immigration problems. While a big bill in Congress is a good start, it won’t be the end-all-be-all for managing frustration levels. As Congress lags, how can states respond to federal inaction without having to get into bed with the “send them all home” crowd?
While some of the traditional gateway states may be better at integrating immigrants than others, there are still many states engineering programs that bring immigrants into the fold and making them part of the growth and rebirth of some communities. A mix of integration programming gets immigrants acclimated, learning English and adapting to the new culture might be the solution in some places. Certainly individuals pressing members of their congressional delegations to get off the fence and finally enact reform would help, too. Thinking and talking about what can be done—and doing so with intellectual honesty—is critical. However, it’s also important that in devising solutions, we stick to the basic American principals and ideals: fairness, due process and equal opportunity. When we start from this place, we can devise solutions that are right for our communities without buying into the punitive anti-immigrant franchise.
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