Take the olive branch.

May 16th, 2006

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I won’t opine on the wisdom, or lack thereof, of using the National Guard to help secure the U.S./Mexican border. It’s not my area of expertise, and I personally don’t’ get a queasy feeling about “militarizing” our border. Five hundred thousand people illegally cross it each year; another million give it the ol’ college try. Let’s not pretend that there aren’t some serious problems in policing that barrier.

But the President was mostly right in what he had to say last night on illegal immigration. And it’s time to take the olive branch that Bush offered and pass a comprehensive, bipartisan bill that’s tough on the border, practical for America, and fair to both taxpayers and the people who have laid down roots in this country. That’s the kind of bill that is making its way through the Senate—with help from both sides of the aisle. It is not the kind of bill that was rammed through the House—with help from the usual suspects.

So what does it mean to be tough on the border? Vigorously enforcing the laws on the books would be a good start (see our new report A Heck of a Job on Immigration Enforcement showing that DHS hasn’t been). Ending the catch and release program would be another—as the President suggested. And of course, a little bit more effort in the form of surveillance and manpower at the border.

What constitutes practical? With all due respect to Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-The Shining, CO), detaining, deporting, and jailing 12 million illegal immigrants doesn’t pass the test. It means finding a practical way toward earned legality for those already here.

And fair for taxpayers and those already here—fairness means having illegal immigrants pay a fine and back taxes to get out of the shadow economy and into the sunlight of the American economy. That’s where the President is; that’s where most reasonable people are—let’s get it done.