Hamilton: On immigration reform, Obama and Congress must compromise

It is impossible to ignore the extent of America’s political disunity. In the current political climate, any show of bipartisanship, no matter how disingenuous, is praised. Recent immigration reform proposals are no exception. The original plan, devised by a bipartisan group of senators, proposes an overhaul of the existing system. It aims to create a path to residency and citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants and to secure the southern border. It would seem that both parties are prepared to face the issue of illegal immigration head on. In President Barack Obama’s words “The good news is that for the first time in many years Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together.”

Similar attempts began with a bill under former President George W. Bush in 2006, ending with Obama’s Dream Act in 2010. As legislation has flared and died upon entering the Republican-controlled House, one might predict Obama’s submission. And, after securing approximately 70 percent of the Hispanic vote last election, it is in his party’s interest to pursue this issue.

Although Obama’s show of support seems sincere, given such unprecedented cooperation, Congress’ sudden willingness to cross party lines seems suspicious. Once one looks past the bill’s apparent progressiveness, its tenets are deceiving.

There are a few hurdles to the law passing, however. Key congressional players have voiced their opposition to the bill already. As Sen. Mitch McConnell stated, “This effort is too important to be written in a backroom and sent to the floor with a take-it-or-leave-it approach.” Republican dismissal jeopardizes the bill’s survival.

Obama’s scheme deviates from the GOP’s in one vital aspect: border control. Republicans suggest a hold until security is ensured. Obama considers the delay, as E.G. Austin puts it in The Economist, a “troubling form of legal limbo.”

Without implementation of an enforcement system, the influx of new, undocumented people is likely. If Obama has immigrants’ interests in mind, it is unwise to alienate conservative approval. Without agreement, efforts will come to a standstill.

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith said, “When you legalize those who are in the country illegally, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars.” Illegal immigrants, however, already cost taxpayers $113 billion annually according to the National Research Council. Should the bill fail to pass, this situation remains stagnant. Both scenarios are undesirable.

If augmented border security is the only path to consensus, it’s improbable the bill will be passed, let alone considered.

Congress’ supposed bipartisanship is a smokescreen. In this period of dissent, the public clings to anything remotely positive. It’s a win-win situation: Both parties, in hedging a flimsy compromise, strengthen their constituencies. The president has already benefited; his approval rating is the highest it has been since 2009.

To make matters worse, these propositions are hardly laudable. Eight years to obtain a green card, another five to become a citizen? In comparison to former President Ronald Reagan’s plan, a mere 18-month process, Obama’s plan seems far more vague and deceptive.

Immigration reform is an honorable prospect, one championed by both parties. Take it from Sen. John McCain: “We have been too content for too long to allow individuals to mow our lawn, serve us food, clean our homes and even watch our children while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great.”