Microcosm of immigration controversy

My closing comments on the exchange of columns between Guy Farmer and me are they are a microcosm of the immigration controversy that has embroiled our nation: Proponents of comprehensive immigration reform offering specific, concrete and workable solutions embodied in S. 744 that passed the Senate by a substantial bipartisan majority; opponents singularly fixated on border closure, notwithstanding S. 744’s mandate the border be secured before key provisions can become effective.

Any immigration discussion must begin with an acknowledgement the issues are vast and complex, critical to our economy, important to our national security and infused with humanitarian concern. They are not amenable to simplistic solutions, such as “close the border” and “send them back.”

The border between the United States and Mexico is 1,952 miles long. Eighty percent of all U. S. border patrol agents are stationed along that border, heavily armed and supported by sophisticated communications and sensor technology as well as miles of fencing. I used facts to support the statement Mr. Obama has a strong border security program, which Guy dismissed as “obvious White House talking points.”

It’s virtually impossible to seal the border, a fact that should be recognized in shaping security policy. Instead of committing additional billions of dollars in an effort to prevent incursions, money would be better spent on programs with Mexico and Central American countries to minimize outward migration, a more effective outcome than border interdiction.

And where is the humanitarian spirit that has characterized this country for so many decades? Certainly, we must have effective immigration controls. But it’s appalling to see and hear the anger and hatred being expressed in places like Murrieta, Calif., toward the young children now seeking entry to our country from Central America to escape gang warfare, violence and fear. We should think twice before condemning them to that life.

Guy and many others say the current flood of children is the result of Mr. Obama’s “failed policies,” identifying only his modified Dream Act program adopted in 2012. It provides that deportation of certain undocumented immigrants may be deferred for two-year periods; they must have been children who were brought to this country by their parents prior to 2007 and who have lived here continuously. Many of the eligible people do not remember living in Mexico and think of themselves as Americans. That limited, just program cannot be blamed for today’s issues.

Judicial justification for deportation deferral can be found in Arizona v. United States (2012). Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “A principal feature of the removal (deportation) system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials,” citing “human concerns” in particular. And contrary to Guy’s column, the Court held that Arizona can assist the Federal government in immigration enforcement, but it cannot undermine national law.

Guy’s first paragraph reads, “The American people don’t trust President Obama to keep his promises, and that is why so many of us oppose his ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ proposal.” That unwarranted attack on Mr. Obama’s integrity may offer insight into congressional Republicans’ skeptical reception of the president’s request for resources to deal with the influx of children from Central America, notwithstanding their repeated demands he not act without legislative authorization.

Guy said, “Bo sounds like an ‘illegal immigration advocate….’” I do not advocate illegal immigration, and supporting the comprehensive, effective, humane immigration policy of S. 744 is not doing so.

Bo Statham is a retired lawyer, congressional aide and businessman. He lives In Gardnerville and can be reached at bostattham@me.com


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