- “There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws.”
- “Barack Obama and Harry Reid: pushing amnesty to give illegal aliens a free ride.”
These statements come from the House Republicans’ Principles on Immigration reform and a mailer during the primary campaign of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Each perpetuates a frighteningly common trend in American politics: an eagerness to blame victims instead of proposing meaningful solutions to our most pressing problems as a country. Sentiments like these don’t speak to a nation of unlimited possibility and opportunity, and they certainly fail to capture the rich and complex history of American immigration.
Despite having the votes and ability to pass an immigration reform bill for nearly a year, we witnessed House Republicans engage in one stall tactic after another. They spent their time disparaging American immigrants as being free-loaders, despite their proven contributions to our economy, our communities, and our way of life. The same tactics are mirrored in other areas, such as the response to the ongoing housing crisis. Unfortunately, these tactics have only held up common-sense reform in a country that was build by immigrants.
However, the debate does not have to play out this way; we can no longer allow those who have much to gain by a lack of reform to control the national discussion.
Today we have the ability to lift up the victims of this humanitarian crisis, and make America a better place to live in the process. Immigrants in communities across America are humans working to follow the same dreams as our American ancestors. This nation was founded on the mythos of the American Dream, where a person from any rung on the social ladder can improve their lives and the lives of their families if they work hard enough. But, faced with our current immigration system, and an enforcement-only deportation process that destroys families and devastates communities, we blame the victims instead of encouraging them to seek better lives.
Leaders across the country outside of the D.C. beltway know the value that immigration reform can bring to their communities.
“Past generations of immigrants built rural America; new generations are revitalizing it,” says Wilder, Idaho, Mayor John Bechtel.
In Pueblo, Colo., Councilmember Stephen Nawrocki recently called for a common-sense solution that creates a path for citizenship for the 11 million immigrants currently working and contributing to American cities nationwide. The American public wants immigration reform as well, but our politicians in D.C. continue to ignore the desires of the nation in favor of a never-ending game of one-upmanship.
There is hope — we can transcend our immigration and deportation problems. The Alliance for a Just Society urges solutions that can expand the American Dream to a new generation of immigrants. Putting members of our communities on a safe and secure path to citizenship will create economic prosperity for both rural and urban America, and, more importantly, it will end the devastation of communities across the nation. Shifting blame onto the people entering America to escape poverty and violence in their homeland is naïve and is no meaningful solution.
It is time to stand with the people who need reform most. We need less blame, hate, and ridicule, and far more compassion and common sense from our leaders. There is still an opportunity for our story to unfold differently than it has in the past.