The moral underpinnings of enforcing our immigrations laws have been steadily eroding over the last decade. This has been a crucial element in bringing us to the nation's current immigration morass.
What we have now is a toxic mix of understandable public sympathy toward people who say they only want a better life and the ambivalence toward enforcement it helps to generate, crass political calculation on the part of large segments of both our major political parties, ethnic group self-interest geared to easing the way for more of their own group members – all allied against the basic and legitimate public interest of ordinary Americans and the country.
It is import to note that many public figures have a claimed to speak in our collective name. And it is true that some portion of the public elected them. As a result, there is some truth to the "complicity" argument that advocates of amnesty make. They say the country has not only benefited from illegal migration, but also in some ways looked the other way and in doing so encouraged it.
"Looked the other way" is a somewhat passive construction for what has really been a more active and assertive stance supporting illegal migration on the part of our public and civic leaders at all levels. That stance did not originate with President Obama. However, he and his administration have been its most vocal presidential-level supporters in American history.
As a result, the United States has, over the years, sent loud and clear mixed signals about its own fidelity to enforcing its immigrations laws.
This is not the fault of ordinary Americans. Majorities of the American public have repeatedly expressed concern about illegal migration and wanted something done about it. And the public has repeatedly supported enforcement of our immigration laws, even though it retains some sympathy for the "better life" argument that advocates for illegal migration make.
However, given the structure of American political architecture champions of narrowing, and therefore decreasing, enforcement in both parties have achieved an outsized voice and influence when compared to the millions of ordinary Americans who want our immigration laws enforced, firmly and fairly.
That imbalance has had an impact. You cannot be unwilling to fully enforce immigration laws for many years, promote legalizing illegal migrants as a matter of official party policy doctrine year after year, extol the virtues of "immigrants" without making any distinctions between those who have followed the rules and those who haven't, and offer financial and political incentives to those who have no legal right to be here without compromising the moral premises of enforcement.
And perhaps that was one of its purposes.
If so, it has not yet succeeded, since majorities of Americans, including Hispanic and Asian immigrants, support the enforcement of our immigration laws. As a new Pew Hispanic study notes, "When it comes to increasing enforcement of immigration laws at U.S. borders, the surveys find that two-thirds (68%) of Hispanics and 73% of Asian Americans say they approve of this proposal." (p.18)
There is then a majority constituency for enforcing our immigration laws, which apparently includes the very groups that some political leaders in both parties have been pandering to, whether out of political calculation or abject electoral fear.
However, before that majority can be called upon to support a broadly based public interest immigration reform, we must first remove some stumbling blocks.