By Attorney Farhad Sethna, © 2014
Doubtless, there will be many readers who disagree with me. This is, after all my viewpoint. However, it is a viewpoint based on common sense, practicality, and – most importantly – the framework of avowed Republican principles.
Republicans have long been a party of immigration reform. The party of Lincoln has a history of including all persons – starting with emancipation. Likewise, look at President Ronald Reagan’s amnesty which legalized millions of undocumented agricultural workers and others. Next, look at President George H. Bush’s strong leadership following the Tiananmen Square crackdown in China, opening America’s doors to hundreds of thousands of Chinese to seek permanent residence in the United States. Most recently, look at President George W. Bush’s track record. First, as governor of Texas, a border state, he was very aware of the immigration issues. When he became President, he pushed for immigration reform along with notable Senate leaders such as John McCain (himself later a Presidential candidate) and Honorable Senator Ted Kennedy.
The Senate has already passed an immigration reform bill. But the Republican-controlled House will not even bring a bill to debate on the House floor. The Republican party now seems to be stuck in an old, outmoded “keep them out” mind set. Why is this so?
To understand the answer requires careful analysis of the Republican position.
Republicans have traditionally been a party that favors hard work, less government, self determination, religious freedom, and the right of every individual to make his or her destiny.
Based on this set of ideals, I would argue that most immigrants are actually Republicans just waiting to become citizens. A majority of the undocumented immigrants in this nation come from Mexico and Central America. These Latin countries have a strong religious tradition, strong family values, and a strong tradition of hard work. Indeed, most of the undocumented aliens who are apprehended in the United States cite “work” as the top reason for being here. They do not leave their homes, families, children, friends, and familiar circumstances thousands of miles away and come to the US under hazardous conditions to party in Florida. No. They come here to work. A strong Republican tradition.
Most undocumented aliens are also religious people. They come from countries where there is a strong religious base and they continue to uphold their faith. Again, a congruence with strong Republican ideals of religion, protection of life from conception, and adherence to faith.
Most immigrants have cohesive family ties. They come here with spouses and children, and very often have additional children in the United States. They tend to be tight knit families, helping one another, and working together to make a better life for the entire family. Children go to school, and even though their parents may not know English, they study hard and tend to do well, oftentimes better than their American peers. Here is another congruence with Republicans, family values.
Most immigrants would rather work and make money, than get a government handout. Most immigrants eschew government assistance, in favor of earning more through their own efforts. Consequently, most immigrants would rather have an honest job with an honest wage, than be limited by the few dollars that government assistance would provide. That is another congruence with Republican values, self-reliance. The right to work hard and succeed, based on one’s own efforts .
Thus, it seems very clear that most immigrants are simply “Republicans in waiting”. Then why is the Republican party so antithetic toward immigrant rights and legalization?
The answer perhaps does not lie in the politics of immigration as much as it lies in the politics of Washington: Republicans simply detest a Democratic administration. Whatever President Obama says is wrong. If President Obama says the sun rises in the east, Republicans will find some way to refute that assertion, however idiotic that might seem. The Republican mantra – to replace “Yes, we can” [Obama’s refrain] – is “No, you won’t”.
But at what cost? Are Republicans hurting themselves in the long run by denying immigration reform? Is the United States of America hurt in the process?
Undoubtedly. There are 12 million undocumented aliens in this country, plus many millions waiting patiently in line to get into this country. There are also many million more who are already in this country waiting for their green cards while a broken immigration system continues to creep along at glacial speed.
Unless Republicans embrace the idea of immigration reform and revamp the immigration system, many millions are going to be waiting for years, if not decades. For others, there is no way out at all. Whichever party takes the lead on immigration reform stands a far better chance of marketing itself to a huge block of voters. So far, Republicans have failed miserably.
Study after study touts the positive economic impact of immigration reform: added taxes, home ownership, purchase of durable goods, increased spending, and a boost to the payroll taxes which fund Medicare and Social Security for all Americans. Dozens of business leaders have spoken out in support of immigration reform, as have prominent moderate Republicans. Immigration reform would keep the best and brightest here in the United States, rather than banishing them to other countries because of visa backlogs. We need immigration to retain America’s edge.
I would argue that it’s better to craft a well-defined application process, charge filing fees, levy reasonable fines, and provide a route for the undocumented to come out of the shadows, live and work freely, and pay their taxes. In so doing, they will be able to assimilate more fully into American society and contribute to that society which they admire so much. Business leader after business leader has indicated that Republicans need to be positive on the issue of immigration reform. Noted politicians have said the same thing. Yet, the Republican-led House of Representatives remains stuck in a trap: oppose President Obama no matter what.
While the prospects of immigration reform may seem dim at this time, the voices of 12 million undocumented souls and their families (which include many US citizens) will hopefully not be ignored for long. There is an election coming up in November. Make your voice heard. Vote for candidates who will have a pro-immigration platform. The United States was built on immigrants, and it will continue to be number one and strong, but only if it receives fresh input from those “tired huddled masses yearning to breathe free” who can contribute so much to this great nation.
Copyright, Farhad Sethna, Attorney, 2014
About the author: Attorney Farhad Sethna has practiced law for over 20 years. Since 1996, he has been an adjunct professor of Immigration Law at the University of Akron, School of Law, in Akron, Ohio. He is a frequent speaker at Continuing Legal Education and professional development seminars on various immigration-related topics. His practice is limited to immigration and small business. With offices in Cuyahoga Falls, Akron and Dover, Ohio, Attorney Sethna represents clients in all types of immigration cases. Our number is: (330)-384-8000. Please send your general immigration questions to AttorneySethna@immigration-america.com. We will try to answer as many questions as possible.
This is only general legal information. Please consult a qualified immigration attorney for advice on your specific case.