In an op-ed in the Washington Post President George W. Bush presents a remarkably rosy scenario for reforming immigration. According to him there are six areas on which both Republicans and Democrats can agree:
- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
- Controlling the border
- Support for development in Central American countries
- A modernized asylum system
- Increasing legal immigration
- Bringing illegal immigrants already here “out of the shadows”
Over the years, our instincts have always tended toward fairness and generosity. The reward has been generations of grateful, hard-working, self-reliant, patriotic Americans who came here by choice.
If we trust those instincts in the current debate, then bipartisan reform is possible. And we will again see immigration for what it is: not a problem and source of discord, but a great and defining asset of the United States.
My own view is that the only one of those measures on which a compromise is possible is DACA and even that will be difficult despite the measure being popular in the abstract because the two political parties cannot agree on the details. What is the objective? Who would qualify? How would claims be proven? The Republicans aren’t the Republicans he remembers, the Democrats aren’t the Democrats he remembers, the immigrants aren’t the immigrants he imagines, and, frankly, America isn’t as he imagines it, either.
I found this passage from early in his op-ed laughable or, at least, grossly exaggerate:
The help and respect historically accorded to new arrivals is one reason so many people still aspire and wait to become Americans.
When was that? It certainly wasn’t from 1921 to 1965. During that period a strict quota system essentially limited immigration to Northwestern Europeans. It certainly wasn’t in the 1830s and 1840s during which both New York and Philadelphia were rocked by anti-Irish riots. It wasn’t between 1882 and 1892 when the Chinese Exclusion Act made immigration China illegal. It wasn’t during the 1930s and 1940s when the U. S. refused to accept refugees from Eastern Europe. And it wasn’t during the 1930s when migrant workers from Mexico were forcibly shipped to Mexico in boxcars including some people who had been born here. What I would say is that over the last 30 years the U. S. has been more accepting of more immigrants from more different places than at any previous time in its history.
My own view is that we are desperately in need of immigration reform but it is impeded by mutual detestation on the part of our political parties and lack of agreement on the objectives of reform.