Arizona Immigration Law May Lead to Consensus

Securing our border has to come first. Then fair, clear, well-enforced immigration rules should follow.

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By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

I was traveling this weekend to a family reunion and got seated on the plane between two beefy guys, who were on a business trip with some similarly beefy colleagues in the next row. When I asked where they were headed, they replied, “To a mock riot.” Huh? It turns out they were all prison guards (“Call us corrections officers, please!”) going for annual training in how to suppress an inmate uprising. Between a lot of joking with me, good-natured teasing of my mother nearby, and some prison-related banter (their prison movie all-time favorites: The Shawshank Redemption and Escape from Alcatraz; their favorite tool for controlling inmates: water cannon), I asked who their most notorious inmates were. They said it was a group of high school boys who were charged with hate crimes and murder in the racially-motivated killing of an Hispanic man in 2008. It was a horrible crime. That led us to start talking about the controversial new immigration law in Arizona.

While none of us thought the law was perfect by any stretch, and while we all believed that immigrants helped make this country great, we also all agreed that the frustration of the people of Arizona is understandable, given what’s going on in some of the border towns. We all agreed that securing the border must be one of the top duties of the federal government. They hadn’t read Peggy Noonan’s column over the weekend, but we talked about this part:

... Nothing can or should be done, no new federal law passed, until the border itself is secure. That is the predicate, the common sense first step. Once existing laws are enforced and the border made peaceful, everyone in the country will be able to breathe easier and consider, without an air of clamor and crisis, what should be done next. What might that be? How about relax, see where we are, and absorb. Pass a small, clear law—say, one granting citizenship to all who serve two years in the armed forces—and then go have a Coke. Not everything has to be settled right away. Only controlling the border has to be settled right away.

I like the idea of granting citizenship to anyone who spends two years willing to give their life for our country, and as law enforcement officers--who also either know or are themselves people who are willing to sacrifice their lives as Army reservists, National Guardsmen, and first responders in their communities--they felt the same way. We soon realized that all three of us seated in the same row were either first- or second-generation descendants of immigrants. Our parents or grandparents all came to this country legally, and at considerable delay and difficulty. My grandparents already spoke English, but theirs did not and they had to learn the language before they could become citizens--something that has become controversial these days. “They had to go to some trouble to become citizens, and that’s all we’re asking now,” said one guy. “Just put forth some effort, and come in legally, like our families did. That’s all we’re asking.”

Maybe a mainstream consensus is emerging from the debate over this unreasonable law in Arizona: that securing our border has to come first--and then fair, reasonable but well-enforced immigration rules should follow. It’s like he said: “That’s all we’re asking.”

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