Mercutio’s curse in Romeo and Juliet seems an appropriate wish for our current crop of Republican and Democrat Presidential hopefuls who promise for the umpteenth time to solve the contentious immigration issue.
If history is any indication, these latest declarations will amount to nothing once the next president takes the oath of office in January 2017.
The immigration debate has embroiled our political leaders for 50 years. As early as 1963, President John F. Kennedy reminded us that America is a nation of immigrants and he noted that we continue to prosper from the arrival of new residents to our shore and their contributions to our republic. Yet, that same year Kennedy also recognized what he called the “inequities in American immigration laws.”
Kennedy promised legislation to address this “intolerable situation.” He did not live to see his dream, but President Lyndon B. Johnson two years later signed into law the historic Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.
In the half a century since, our political leaders continue to wrestle with how to secure our borders and deal with those who are in America illegally.
We have heard many campaign promises but have seen little progress. Both Democrats and Republicans share equal blame for this shameful record.
In 2005, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain introduced the Security America and Orderly Immigration Act (S. 1033). The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee never to be seen again.
One year later, Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Arlen Specter filed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 (S. 2611). The measure won Senate approval but died in the House of Representatives.
Thirteen months later, Nevada Democrat Sen. Harry Reid filed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (S. 1348). Despite bipartisan support including a strong push from President George W. Bush, the bill failed to come to a full Senate vote.
A few days later (June 18, 2007) Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy introduced A Bill to Provide for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and for Other purposes (Se. 1639). The Senate refused to vote on this measure, too.
This year immigration reform continues to roil our presidential politics. The candidates too often eschew thoughtful deliberation in favor of xenophobic inflammatory rhetoric. Pollyannaish promises ignore actual impediments.
Donald Trump advocates the mass deportation of “criminal aliens” and he promises to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. A barrier he wants Mexico to pay for.
Jeb Bush, on the other hand, is one of the more moderate Republican voices on immigration. His six-point proposal focuses on upgrading electronic surveillance along America’s southern border coupled with specific steps to enable illegal immigrants earn legal status.
The leading Democrat president contender, Hillary Clinton, goes farther. She promotes “a path to full and equal citizenship,” the plan pushed by President Barack Obama.
It is frustrating and disappointing that after 50 years the immigration debate continues to be a convenient ploy for political aspirants who favor demagoguery over reform and mouth outlandish proposals rather than realistic solutions.
This topic will generate much heat until election day 2016. Then fade from the headlines as both the president and congress avoid action again.
Indeed, a pox on all their houses.