A Commentary By Susan Estrich
Trying to make news over the holiday weekend and trying to avoid the attention being paid to the latest gaffe from Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele (who is "the gift that keeps on giving," according to former Democratic National Committee Chair and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell), Republican leaders put out the story that the president needs to take a trip to the border to see just how dangerous it is.
The only thing that could be more of a stunt than his taking that trip is the Republicans' call for him to do so.
However dangerous the border is -- or isn't -- the president would certainly not find out by going there. It's the job of the Secret Service to see to that. The Mexican gangs who have been killing each other, the irresponsible coyotes who take people's money and risk their lives -- you can be sure they wouldn't be anywhere near the president.
Immigration reform is not going to pass in this Congress. Everyone knows that. A majority of Democrats support legislation to address both border security and the status of the 11 million people who live in this country but do not have papers: undocumented residents, as Democrats call them; illegal aliens, as Republicans prefer. But a majority of Democrats is not enough to pass anything in the Senate. There is not a single Republican vote there right now for doing what former Republican President George W.Bush tried to do just a few short years ago. And with no Republican support, nothing will happen.
The president is giving speeches about immigration not because he is pushing a bill, but to explain to Hispanic voters why he isn't.
The Republicans are making a fuss about a trip to the border not because they really want the president to go, but because they want to lay people's fears about border violence on the president's doorstep.
This is not about policy, not at all. This is about politics. Most stunts are.
If you're for comprehensive reform, you talk about providing a path to legalization. If you're against it, you talk about amnesty. Most people believe in the rule of law: that people who come here legally, who follow the rules and wait their turn, should be at the head of the line. Why reward those who violate the law?
Then you tell them the story of a mother whose children were born in the United States, who are themselves citizens, whose oldest son is serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they say yes, well, that's different. You tell them the story of young adults who came here as children and have lived their entire lives in this country, who are working hard, going to school, paying taxes, and they agree that of course we should not deport the high school valedictorian because his parents brought him here "illegally" as a child.
It's easy to wrap ourselves in the rule of law in the abstract. It's much harder when you hear stories -- like the stories of so many of our grandparents and great-grandparents -- of people who came to this country because they wanted a better life for their children, who worked hard and obeyed the law and paid their taxes and risked their lives so they could cut our grass or care for our children and offer their own children a better life.
The only way to address the immigration issue fairly is if we can put partisan politics aside, stop posturing, stop scoring points with language and stunts, and try to work together on a solution. That won't happen in an election season, no chance. But let's at least say no to all the stunts -- and stunts about stunts.
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