A nation of immigrants faces reality

The immigration reform legislation before Congress has become the favorite kickball of this session. Despite a reasonable effort passed by the Senate with a bipartisan majority a year ago, the House of Representatives has shelved immigration legislation. Reasonable folk believe it must be addressed to stop the gridlock at the Mexican border.

Why is this critical issue not resolved while tens of thousands of migrants are stuck in detention camps or hiding out in metropolitan centers?

The simple answer is political. House leadership refuses to give the president and the strained Border Control the financial and legal backup to relieve the mounting pressure in the border cities. It boils down to a political vendetta that prevents control of a critical social problem. It is also a sure way for the Republican Party to lose any credibility with the growing Latino population.

Here are some of the forces blocking reform. Legislation will not happen in an election year as long as xenophobic congressmen keep it locked up; pressure from labor lobbyists who help elect these representatives with their campaign funding do not want illegal immigrants in the labor pool; taxpayers who vote don’t want to pay welfare benefits for immigrants who crossed illegally.

Considering the labor pool opposition to reform, the migrants who manage to get here find jobs that Americans don’t want: back-breaking work in the agriculture fields, construction and landscape labor and low-wage jobs in hospitality.

Food stamps, medical care and education of children are provided by eager social workers and caring charity groups. Most of these costs are borne by the taxpayers, which encourages a xenophobic response.

Accusing someone, especially an elected official, of xenophobia is risky, but it must be considered in discussing immigration reform. Despite our nation’s credo of egalitarian ideals, many Americans still are racist.

U-T San Diego published two extensive opinions articles earlier this month on the crisis at the border that are worthy of observing.

The numbers are staggering. In 2013 the Border Patrol apprehended 414,000 migrants along the border from San Diego to Laredo, Texas, the largest number crossing in the Tucson and Rio Grande Valley sectors. The volume is considerably reduced since 2004, but the number of Border Patrol agents has doubled to 21,400.

The government’s policies for this crisis at the border have met with disapproval from 54 percent of American Latinos.

Migration happens all over the world. The most comprehensive sites pertain to refugees from the war-torn countries of the Mideast and Africa. Every developed country is experiencing an invasion of foreign expatriates. The United States is not the only nation trying to seal its borders.

In the Mediterranean, boatloads of African refugees fleeing from civil wars are landing on Italian shores. Hundreds drown or suffocate in the holds of transports while Italy and the European Union struggle to find ways to stop the flow of asylum seekers.

There’s no perfect solution for controlling the massive flow of migrants across our porous borders. We already have laws, regulations and funding for border security that are not being properly used or are hopelessly underfunded. Typical of many laws, some provide specifics for Mexicans but fail to cover other Latin Americans. Then there are the unaccompanied children.

As of this month, 57,000 children from Central America are trapped in a bureaucratic mire without adequate housing facilities. Mothers with children are released from custody and told to come back later for processing. You know what happens once they are out of detention and can find an urban shelter to pursue their goal of getting a job or receiving welfare.

We are a nation of immigrants. Those who oppose new arrivals should consider why their ancestors came to America and have some compassion.

Ford is a freelance writer in San Diego. He can be reached at

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