Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

Okay By Me In America

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It remains to be seen what will become of mayor mayor Bill de Blasio’s current attempt at documenting New York City’s many undocumented immigrants, but one thing is for sure: There is only one viable solution to our immigration crisis. Following the failure of former governor Eliot Spitzer’s bid to get undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses as a means of giving them some form of security from being had in this economy, de Blasio seems bent at proving that his liberal bite is as bad as his bark, and I for one hope he enjoys a full resounding success, as Democrats overall don’t seem to be as particularly enthused at solving the problem as they ought to be.

The problem is, the GOP and its self-deportation insanity aside, liberal Democrats like de Blasio are currently outnumbered if not by anti-immigrant Blue Dogs like senator Christine Gillibrand, then by “wait and see” centrists like former secretary Hillary Clinton. His proposal, like most of his policies, is painted as liberal, but even an optimistic interpretation would mark it as only the very first step in providing undocumented immigrants a path to legal residence, political personhood and citizenship. Overall, however, this schizophrenic policy in the party overall is a failure of leadership. Critics may abound when it comes to explaining why documenting undocumented immigrants won’t work, but their lack of alternatives illustrates the inevitability of the issue’s rightful conclusion. Let me highlight it by proposing what they feasibly can’t.

a) Mass Deportation. The GOP would very much like there to be no illegal immigrants in this country, but there’s one major obstacle in that: There are close to 12 million illegal immigrants here already. Obama has already removed almost 2 million illegal immigrants from this country, the most of any US president in the history of the country, and the borders have never be tighter during peacetime, but the total number that remain is actually growing. Even were the federal government to take more draconian measures to crack down on immigrants – something only suggested in Tea Party pipe dreams a la Michelle Bachmann’s 2011 campaign promise – that would amount to the greatest forced movement of people this side of the Soviet Union.

b) Second Class Citizen Status. Barring the elimination of immigrants from the country, the GOP was still hard-pressed to provide solutions to the immigration crisis. In this stead, the Republican National Convention came up with the bright idea to set up a permanent guest worker status, where-in immigrants who are here already can be documented, but have no path to citizenship. Not only is this against the ideals that the country was founded on – that all men are created equal, with the same inalienable rights – but in countries where such a reality is in place, such as the United Arab Emirates, the depreciated legal status goes hand in hand with human rights violations as well as inevitable protests, riots and uprisings. Such a system would turn a bad political situation here worse, erode the American image abroad and signal the beginning of the end of our great experiment.

c) The Status Quo. Most of what Congress has done, in what is the least productive legislative body in modern history, has been to kick the can down the road. Of course, what this means is that every ill to come from a flow of undocumented people to this country – namely, an exploited underclass that, due to its vulnerability, drives down wages and refuses, by dint of self-preservation, to cooperate with authorities, which can provide a screen for criminal behavior – goes more or less untreated. This crisis is indeed a crisis because the current format is untenable: The country needs the labor and expertise of these workers and thinkers, but it does not need an informal economy to compete against the established one, for that helps nobody – citizen or immigrant alike.

This leaves a single solution: Amnesty. After all, not acknowledging these people does not change the fact that they are already here and simply heaps needless hardship upon them as well as everybody else in the same economy as them, whereas either abridging their rights or removing them would be tantamount to a second Trail of Tears. The Democratic push for the Dream Act has been repeatedly demurred as “not amnesty,” but at heart it still legitimizes young people here illegally and gives them a quick path to citizenship. It’s a backdoor amnesty – as the very word makes conservatives splutter – that would effectively convert an illegal population to a legal one in a generation. It, like de Blasio’s proposal, is a step in the right direction, though not a full step.

The shortsightedness of these Democratic half-measures is foolish because time and demographics are on the liberal Democrats’ side: About a quarter of the nation is comprised of first or second generation immigrants, which also accounts for the vast majority of the nation’s growth, so as time goes by the population will necessarily become more diverse and thus more amenable to the idea of open borders. Meanwhile, the conservative constituency of modern Know-Nothings is shrinking. While de Blasio looks very liberal for proposing this documentation policy, just as Bloomberg, a third-generation immigrant, looked liberal for forbidding city employees from asking residents about their legal status, within a generation, it won’t matter how brave the Democrats are: The populace will want reforms far exceeding the proposals that are currently being discussed. It is only a question as to how quickly the Democrats will be able to react to such demand and position themselves as champions of much-needed change. The Republicans are already in the midst of being left in the dust: Will the Democrats also be?

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