Republican politicians who are insisting on more border security as the price for supporting immigration reform often use the Reagan 1986 "amnesty" law as an example of why legalization without strong border security supposedly doesn't work. But this comparison is misplaced. When the 1986 law was signed, there were few, if any, guards or other barriers at the Mexican border.
Now, there are thousands of border guards, together with a proliferation of fences and high tech devices, which have, according to most accounts, made significant reductions in the number of people apprehended while trying to cross illegally. The idea of trading off more border "enforcement" for legalization of unauthorized immigrants is a myth, unless one supports Herman Cain and his proposal during the Republican primary for an electrified fence. That is just about the only border "security" device that is not already in use.
The same is true of the demands for more "internal" enforcement. It is more than a little odd that the same party which is so opposed to "job-killing" regulations on businesses when more regulation is, arguably, urgently needed to protect consumers, the environment, union bargaining rights, or gender equality, is at the same time so eager to pile immigration regulations on businesses in order to intimidate and discourage employers from hiring Spanish-speaking workers.
It is also somewhat strange that the party which is so bitterly opposed to registering the owners of guns which kill thousands of people each year is so supportive of e-verify, which amounts to a national registry of employees who pay taxes and contribute to our economy.
What are the real motives for the Republicans' insistence on even more border and internal immigration enforcement as the condition for supporting a very limited immigration reform proposal, such as the one put forth by the bipartisan group of eight Senators last week? Has last November's election really changed the GOP's seemingly instinctive hostility to Latino and other brown skinned immigrants?
Not if one listens to Republican Congressman Lou Barletta, the former mayor who was responsible for enacting a notorious anti-immigrant ordinance in Hazelton,PA which sought to drive unauthorized people out of the town.
Barletta was quoted in the February 3 Huffington Poat as having said:
"I hope politics is not at the root of why we're rushing to pass a bill. Anyone who believes that they're going to win over the Latino vote is grossly mistaken. The majority that are here illegally are low skilled or may not even have a high school diploma. The Republican party is not going to compete over who can give more social programs out. They will become Democrats because of the social programs they'll depend on."
The attempt to stigmatize Latinos (including US citizens, not only immigrants) as people who have nothing to contribute to society and are only interested in being "takers" is a staple of the agenda of prejudice which earned the Republicans such a crushing defeat at the polls last November. Is the party which is seeking to stymie immigration reform by adding onerous, if not impossible, conditions onto the Senators' and the president's CIR proposals really interested in more border security - or is it merely trying to perpetuate hate?
This question also applies to the fierce Republican opposition to President Obama's proposal to end immigration discrimination against gays. This will be discussed in a future comment.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.