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July 5, 2015

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Immigration issue is local — very local

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For those who have never experienced legislative debates over comprehensive immigration reform, welcome to the circus, and hang on to your seats. Barely a nanosecond after President Barack Obama complimented the bipartisan guidelines for reform announced this week by the Senate’s “gang of eight,” seasoned skeptics began to parse any differences between the White House and Congress.

The potential show-stopper involves the Senate proposal to create a Southwest border commission, composed of local and state officials and community members. It will assess the progress of border security measures as a part of a process toward citizenship for the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country. None of the “gang” has made entirely clear the powers of this commission; Democrats have said it would provide nonbinding recommendations, but Republican Marco Rubio has suggested it would essentially have veto power over any efforts to grant amnesty to undocumented workers.

The controversy over the Southwest border commission already has a name: the “trigger” issue.

Trying to discern the true nature of the commission is bait, a red herring, that the left seems all too eager to take. If Democrats use it to block comprehensive immigration reform, they’ll be giving the GOP a way out of a huge political mess. Republicans are under intense pressure to pass comprehensive reform, or risk further alienating Hispanic voters, but there are huge chunks of the party’s own base that remain adamantly opposed.

The commission itself is actually a good idea that will make reform much more palatable to border states. Immigration is many things, but it is mostly local. Progressives have long believed in the notion of cooperative federalism — that the most intractable issues of our time are best resolved when local, state and federal resources work in a cooperative and unified fashion. Such cooperation is what animates almost every major public policy effort in the modern age. Community efforts, often dubbed “having a seat at the table,” are just a means for state and local buy-in to a federal policy, whether in environmental planning efforts, education, disaster relief, public safety, tax codes or health care.

It should be no different with immigration. Pro-reform activists have, ironically, been making that same argument, often balking at federal enforcement efforts that seem inconsistent with state or local priorities. For example, when the federal government demanded that police forces help identify illegal immigrants, many communities pushed back strongly — they felt the effort to enforce immigration laws would undermine local police’s relationships with their communities.

For people along the Southwest border, immigration enforcement is more than an unpleasant duty that the president has to perform to maintain his public-safety credentials. Enforcement needs are real; public safety and security is what citizens of border states, and their elected officials, demand.

It has admittedly been tough and complicated to secure the border. The United States spends more money on border enforcement than all other immigration policies combined. Net migration from Mexico is down to zero, the result of a bad economy in the United States and the billions of dollars spent on fences, drones and agents. Obama has deported 1.5 million people for unlawful status.

The successes of border enforcement have helped make border politics more dynamic. For every Jan Brewer, the Arizona governor who built her career on anti-illegal-immigrant sentiment, there is a Rick Perry, the Texas governor who embraces amnesty.

Mayors such as Ken Miyagishima of Las Cruces, N.M., Raul Salinas of Laredo, Texas, and Greg Stanton of Phoenix know the necessity of giving immigrants legal status, if only to boost the local tax base. These politicians, too, will have a spot on the Southwest border commission.

The Senate guidelines are just a draft. Other language in the document appears to limit the powers of the border commission. It’s unlikely that even Republicans in Congress will want to give the commission too much control over border policy; they know that there are liberal states such as California on the border, too.

This commission doesn’t merit vilification. It does nothing more than establish a formal mechanism by which the politically diverse communities most affected by federal policies can have a seat at the table. In almost every other issue, that is what progressives have been arguing for all along.

Juliette Kayyem is a columnist for the Boston Globe.

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  1. So border states will get a "seat" but will they truly get a "say so" on this Southwest Border Commission? Is this just another case of smoke and mirrors with the Federal government representatives?

    This illegal immigration problem is so vast and perverse, that one has to wonder if this is just yet another case of carefully "kicking the political can down the road." To resolve this issue, to compel compliance of illegals coming out of the shadows and registering, two strategies can be used: draw them with sweet deals or beat them out of the bushes with harshness.

    President Obama is attempting to utilize the sweet approach before necessitating lowering the boom with more harsh tactics. You can attract more with sugar, but what about those who refuse the sugar-coated treatment? Those evading and continuing to invade the laws of our country, will be hunted down and rounded up, and will be put into types of "camps" (these places are already built, including transportation systems, food supplies, coffins---the conspiracy community has documented all these, but were fixated on it being used against rebellious Americans, not illegal immigrants, in my opinion). It's time to connect some dots, and the reasons why politicians have virtually stalled any action for decades now.

    Time will only tell. The problem is so bad that we all know that something MUST be done. Dealing on a local level, you can root these people out better, hence, why more localized measures are instituted. The American ailing infrastructure will be on the mend once we get a handle on illegal immigration.

    Blessings and Peace,

  2. I agree with most of the columnist's commentary however must say treating immigration like it is ONLY a local issue is nonsense. It's not. It's a national issue. We have to FIRST realize and accept this fact BEFORE we will ever accomplish true immigration reform. I believe we just did, [accept this fact] and now we can proceed with the next logical step: Immigration Reform.


  3. When I state,"localized measures," this includes going through the vast local data bases, and filing systems throughout the nation, as with our public schools, because you can easily locate those who are here ILLEGALLY. Also, local Citizens can verify a great deal. It is real difficult to hide a family and their lifestyle.

    As CarmineD states, the next logical step is "Immigration Reform." Any actions taken, must apply to ALL 50 states in the USA, and as we all know, our current system is very broken and needs fixing.

    Blessings and Peace,

  4. The truth is that Senator Obama from Illinois killed the first immigration reform in the Senate in 2005-2007. How? The AFL-CIO, Trumka, BIG LABOR, was and is still against the Guest Worker Program and convinced Senator Obama to be against it too. For obvious reasons.

    When immigration reform came up in the Senate by McCain and Kennedy in 2007, WITH A PROMISING CHANCE OF PASSING, a bill amending the proposal was added to water down/scrub the Guest Worker Program. It passed by one vote: Senator Obama's. Without the Guest Worker Program, Senators pulled their support and it [immigration reform] died.

    Note that President Obama made no mention of the Guest Worker Program in his speech last week in Vegas on Immigration Reform. Note too that the Guest Worker Program is not part of the White House written principles on immigration reform. The Guest Worker Program was and still is a major feature of the bipartisan Senate plan for Immigration Reform. It [guest workers] will likely need tweaking to get it through along with immigration reform.

  5. "Forced by big Labor Obama has rejected temporary worker programs which was his basis to torpedo the 2005 effort and 2007 effort of immigration reform." @ Future

    Kudoes for noting this in your first post above on this thread. You nailed it.


  6. We are under NO OBLIGATION to do anything for illegals. They broke the laws and continue to do so, spitting on our nation and citizens. We must refocus our efforts to a sane means of stabilizing our economy by CUTTING spending and learning to say no--to illegals, to foreign aides, to military aide, to "single" moms, to career indigents. We need to offer modest options for adults that have been devastated by the economic meltdown and to those facing more challenges as the Federal Reserve steals their lifelong savings via 0% interest rates. EVERY other nation on this planet REFUSES ILLEGALS--Dominican refuses into generations of illegal squatters who are NEVER afforded citizenship. Ditto Europe. Quatar? Take a guess. You think illegals live to tell about it?

  7. Star: They're not looking for illegals. As I've mentioned before, just drop by the public library and you can pick up a busload of new arrivals--individuals who can't understand "hello". These yahoos kick Americans out of library services and monopolize the free internet. They email home and give updates as the Coyotes traffic illegals carrying drugs, weapons, prostitutes.

  8. Juilette: you might rethink that "embracing" reform--to realism that the feds and politicos don't have what it takes to implement and enforce no alleged-birth-right citizenship. As it stands, for the parents of EVERY ANCHOR BABY get to claim family reunification and stay here with the kids. We need to REFORM THAT POLICY and deport the entire family.

  9. SCOTUS should rule the 1986 as unconstitutional or at least REVOKE 1986 AMNESTY since material portions of the legislation have not been followed. Illegals must leave.

  10. Carmine and company: This "chance of passing" is all hype to convince us that others would allow illegals to stay. We will NOT. Check out what the senior Legislators are saying: Rubio is naive and we will NOT support this even with hoops to jump thru. We MUST have Border Security and working tracking systems PRIOR TO discussions.

  11. The "objectives" of no immigration changes is to ENFORCE our laws. Nothing is broken, other than refusal to enforce. We have NO OBLIGATION to make life nice for illegals or their kids. We have OBLIGATIONS to unemployed Americans and retirees. If life is not so nice for illegals, they can go home, the sooner the better. Illegal Nigerians, Hispanics, Asians, Scandinavians....

  12. This is funny! Listen for 43 seconds to what Harry Reid said awhile back. This PROVES that the Democrats are pushing amnesty JUST for votes!