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Lou Dobbs Now Says Legalize Illegal Immigrants. Good Idea.

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“We need the ability to legalize illegal immigrants on certain conditions.”

These were the words of Lou Dobbs, interviewed by Maria Celeste on Telemundo’s Al Rojo Vivo a few days ago. It appeared to be a stunning turnaround for a commentator known up until now for his almost rabid attacks on an ‘amnesty’ for illegal immigrants.

Much has been made of the possible cynicism of this move. Dobbs, after all, has completed his move from dry-eyed financial anchor to full-time polemicist with his recent and very swift departure from CNN and subsequent announcement of a possible entry into the political cauldron. But, whatever the motivations of the statement, as a stand alone quote, it will be unacceptable to many of his erstwhile supporters, who will view it as a total capitulation.

It’s not surprising that Dobbs’ comment failed to get much traction. Immigration reform was the untouchable subject in the 2008 election campaign, after which the economic collapse all but silenced any talk of it in the first year of the new administration. No longer is El Norte quite the beacon it was in the last couple of decades or so. Indeed the net outflow of remittances to the South has been slowed to the point where Latin American families are now supporting their husbands, wives, fathers and mothers looking simply to survive in the new American reality.

The economic meltdown does not make the problem go away, however. In fact, in some ways it makes the discussion more urgent. Illegal immigrants put further strain on the American infrastructure, and over time that extra burden could undermine our ability to regenerate and rebuild it. But immigration reform remains stuck in a stark ideological no-man’s land that prevents any serious evaluation of what needs to be done.

Dobbs’ re-evaluation, regardless of its reasoning ( in this case a possible senate run in New Jersey, a state with a high concentration of Latino immigrants ) should really have invited more than a cursory “what did you expect” response.  It was, after all, a statement based on the way things are and therefore could be seen as a catalyst to a new, more intelligent, debate on how to fix immigration.

Serious immigration reform will have to combine the dreams and nightmares of both sides of the current moribund debate. In short, it must address the world as it really is, rather than the world as each side would like to see it.

On the one side, we have to accept that legalizing illegal immigrants is an inevitability. We can’t ship millions of people out of the country for a myriad of reasons. But if we’re going to legalize the vast majority of illegal immigrants, we also have to make sure that’s not the trigger to a vast surge of new clientele for the Coyotes. There has to be a “wall” to put the Coyotes out of business.

Some might call it tiered immigration reform.

First, we strengthen the border, and build the wall. It could be a physical barrier. It could be a surveillance system. It could be a question of re-organizing our border patrols. It could be all three. But it has to work. And it has to be for all intents and purposes impenetrable.

Second, once we’ve completed the “wall” we give illegal immigrants without criminal records already in the United States an offer. They will have up to two years from the date legislation is enacted to become US citizens. If they take up the offer, they will receive a pardon on outstanding taxes owed, and start with a clean slate as Americans. Of course, they’ll have all the responsibilities and protections of US citizens too, including taxation. If they don’t choose to take up the offer in the time available, they lose the chance for good, and if we find them – they go home. In short, if they choose to remain illegal they become fugitives.

It’s likely that Latin America would support US legislation of this kind, especially if the reform package included a way to submit tax-free remittances to families in Latin America.

The status quo, in this as in so many areas, is unsustainable. Making illegal immigrants legal would turn a net drain on US resources into a potential positive.

Would the new Lou support this two-pronged approach? Probably.

Would America support this two-pronged idea? Perhaps.

Should they? Definitely.

Written by coolrebel

December 1, 2009 at 6:21 am

Posted in Washington

One Response

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    Aubrey Swatsworth

    June 19, 2010 at 5:26 am

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