“No amnesty!” “Deport them all!” “What part of ‘illegal’ don’t you understand?”
Those opposed to the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill have plenty of reasons why they won’t support it. Not now. Not ever. And plenty of those opponents are Republicans in the House, which is working on its own version of legislation.
But in Thursday’s Times, Tamar Jacoby argues that immigration reform isn’t dead; far from it:
Reports of the death of immigration reform are greatly exaggerated. The debate isn't over. Reform isn't tanking. It's alive and well, with the Republican-controlled House preparing to take up where the Democratic Senate left off a few weeks ago.
Yes, the debate in the lower chamber will be very different than it was in the Senate. House Republicans are divided, with some, including many in the House leadership, eager to move ahead with reform, others adamantly opposed and yet others still uncertain. But that doesn't mean they won't make progress in months ahead — perhaps even surprising progress by House standards.
To which I’m tempted to say: Uh huh, right. And I have bridge I’ll sell you.
But you know what I wish for those House GOP lawmakers? To paraphrase the Beach Boys, I “wish they all could be California(ns).”
Why? Let me give you a glimpse into what immigration looks like here, on the ground in the Golden State.
Thursday morning, an ever-more-over-the-hill white guy (me) is at a local 7-Eleven in an upscale suburban community, buying (what else?) lottery tickets. (Not that I expect to win, of course; I’m just doing my part for the schools!) The young clerk is Indian and, I assume from his turban, a Sikh. He and I exchange pleasantries.
In walk two young Latino men in work clothes.
The clerk greats them warmly: “Hey, how’s it going? What you been up to?”
“Ah, really busy working,” replies one of the men.
“Haven’t seen you around in a while,” says the clerk.
“Naw. Got deported,” says the worker. “But I’m back now.”
And then the young Indian clerk switched seamlessly into Spanish (which, although I’ve lived here a long time, I still don’t speak).
Does the story make you crazy? Or does it make you smile?
It's all there in a nutshell, isn’t it? All the hot buttons, pro and con: Illegals. Latinos. Indians. Different religion. Different language. But also just like me, and you, and our immigrant forebears: Hard-working. Pursuing the American dream. Friendly. Polite. Efficient.
I know that in less diverse parts of the country -- heck, even some places here in paradise -- there’s fear, anger even, on the issue of immigrants.
But if people could see what I saw -- what many of us here see every day -- if they could put a human face on the issue, then perhaps we could get beyond those useless slogans and soundbites.
The Beach Boys were singing about girls. But their message still has a nice ring to it.
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