Immigration Reform and the Search for Middle Ground

by A.K. Fielding

“The terms on which foreigners may be admitted to the rights of Citizens, should be speedily ascertained by a uniform rule of naturalization.” – President George Washington

According to an article by Cameron Joseph published in The Hill, “a coalition of business and religious leaders” joined on Tuesday to “pressure Republicans to embrace immigration reform.”  The National Immigration Forum is a bipartisan group supporting the coalition in its fight against the rigid GOP stance towards immigration reform.  They claim that the GOP needs to find some flexibility in their approach towards immigration.  Indeed, the GOP should consider immigration reform but they need to do so by keeping all immigrants in mind.

American Passport

Richard Land, a “social” conservative and one of the leaders of the group, states that “the party’s ability to win national elections going forward depends on winning Hispanic voters, and that the party’s handling of immigration reform was hindering that.”  Furthermore, Land feels that “if they want to continue to be a contender for national leadership in this country they’re going to have to change their ways on immigration reform.”  Curiously, Land only discusses the Hispanics in his fight for immigration reform as if to say that the United States only receives Hispanic immigrants.  What about other immigrants who might be facing challenges of their own?  Clearly, the emphasis on Hispanics is for one reason and one reason only:  Votes.

If they agree to make changes that allow an easy access to citizenship and voting rights for illegal Hispanics, what message does the GOP hope to send to the remainder of us who have legally immigrated to the United States? Many of us, who arrived here legally, confronted challenges of our own and had to make personal sacrifices to get here as well, and we did not break laws to do so.

My family waited patiently for almost a decade before we gained admission to the United States.  During those ten years, we cut corners to save money and gave away precious personal belongings to meet the number of things we could bring.  I recall standing in long queues at the Indian Embassy for endless hours with my father, waiting patiently to fill out stacks of papers required to gain permission to enter the United States.  The pain of leaving family and friends behind was the same for us as it is for illegal immigrants.  Yet, my father was convinced that the United States was the land of opportunity, a place where his children could achieve a level of success and he believed in the American Dream until his death.

When we arrived in the United States, we worked hard as a family to survive those first few years.  The politics, culture, and traditions of our new country were unknown to us and we remained anxious about our future as a family and as individuals.  Through it all, we worked together to support our family, never relying on the Government to do the job.  My father worked hard despite his failing health, standing up for several hours on legs that were unable to support him any longer.  My parents were unaware of the welfare state; they only knew how to work to provide for their children’s needs.

There are many immigrants who have similar stories to tell.  Should we simply ignore them because they are unable to offer the GOP (or any party for that matter) the choice votes during the next election cycle?  What precisely does that say about how far removed we are today from the time when Washington said “foreigners” could gain citizenship in the United States through “a uniform rule of naturalization?”  Indeed, the changes are drastic, as Land notes his group is “more concerned about the result than the methodology and process.”  What precisely are the results Land and his supporters seek?  To signal to future generations of illegal immigrants about how they can achieve citizenship and the right to vote; privileges acquired by legal immigrants through hard work and perseverance.

Illegal immigration is an important issue and politicians must tackle it.  Yet, politicians should refrain from uplifting one group while minimizing the difficulties of another.  Immigration reform needs a careful analysis and must remain a fair practice for all.  As such, the GOP would benefit from remembering to stand up for solid American principles instead of bundling under pressures of the latest threat even if it comes under the guise of “conservative” supporters.


AKFielding is an American historian and writer. She has written for the Western Center for Journalism and Conservative Daily News. You may follow her on Twitter: @AKFielding and visit her blog: Average American Woman

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