There is a clear national consensus on the need for immigration reform. And there is hope that even in the highly politicized environment of Capitol Hill, serious people will engage on the issues and work toward a solution with the give and take inherent in any meaningful negotiation — keeping an eye on those issues that are most important, and compromising where necessary in order to achieve the greater good.
And so it was with great anticipation that we reviewed the immigration proposal announced by President Trump last week — the product of yet another consequential assignment delegated to the president’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner. We were disappointed. And we weren’t alone. Virtually everyone who reviewed the proposal — even those who claimed to support it — pronounced it dead on arrival, with no possible chance of success in the current Congress. Instead, proponents pointed to its value to the administration and Republicans in the plan’s afterlife, as a wedge issue in the 2020 presidential campaign.
The November 2020 presidential election is 18 months away. But with 23 Democrats vying for the right to take on Donald Trump, and the drumbeat of daily political jousting on both sides of the aisle, we have fallen into a virtual perpetual campaign time warp — or at least into one that will consume us for the next year and a half. As a result, we shouldn’t expect anything meaningful to be accomplished legislatively for the remainder of the president’s term. Rather, we can expect more nasty fights, investigations, accusations and heated rhetoric — with an occasional creative plan proposed by one of the ever-increasing presidential wannabes.
The Trump immigration plan is neither creative nor comprehensive. In fact, it isn’t much of a plan. It seeks to encourage happy, highly skilled and well-educated immigrants, and virtually ignores those who seek to enter the United States based on family ties, or who are otherwise invited to join us by Emma Lazarus’ poetry. And, of course, there will be a wall.
While we can’t help but wonder which of our ancestors would have made it into this country on the Trump standards, the real distress we feel relates to the politicization of immigration and its heartless use as a political tool.
We understand the desire to be re-elected. But those currently in office — including our president — were put there to address our country’s needs, including the immigration mess. They have an obligation to address the plight of the up to 3.6 million so-called Dreamers who were brought here illegally as children; to respond to the legitimate asylum needs of desperate immigrants at our borders; and to find rational ways to address legitimate security and public welfare concerns.
We need thoughtful proposals that address the challenging immigration issues that confound us. We deserve more than inflated campaign rhetoric. It can be done. It just requires committed leadership.