Opinion and Forefront

SOUDER: Get real about the immigration debate

August 31, 2013

Mark SouderThe only commonly accepted facts about the immigration debate in Washington and at every other political level in America are these:

1. There are a whole lot of Hispanics out there,

2. They are growing in number rapidly, and

3. There seems to be a lot of other ethnics, too, like Asian-Indian Americans.

I spent almost all of my nearly 16 years in Congress amid this issue. I was co-chairman of the Drug Task Force my entire career and Republican leader of the Homeland Security Border and Port Security Subcommittee the last four years. If you work narcotics, you work border issues and international issues, especially in the Americas south of us. When we talk narcotics, other nations talk immigration, remittances and trade.

In my district voter survey, with over 10,000 responses, the only area of bipartisan, overwhelming support was to make English our official language. Those who want us to be bilingual are just behind the times.

South Side High School in Fort Wayne has over 25, not two, languages and dialects among its students. Los Angeles dwarfs this diversity.

Even this one issue of clear national consensus is not understood. It has nothing to do with the most common complaints because it does not, nor should it, regulate private enterprise. You would still get a language prompt on an ATM machine.

Second, in Fort Wayne, half the daily newspapers and many churches used the German language until the rise of Hitler in Germany, which was 100 years after the Germans arrived in Indiana. Yet now we Germans complain about hearing Spanish used.

I hope we can agree on a few things, but don’t hold your breath.

We aren’t going to deport 12 million people.

We cannot give those here illegally unrestricted citizenship, because family reunification law would potentially increase the number to perhaps 60 million over a decade (in-laws take longer but are mandated).

Legal immigration quotas need to be expanded, and family reunification numbers should not be counted in those quotas (which nearly fill them currently). Failure to do this reasonably is what put the uncontainable pressure on the borders.

President Obama’s recession and stagnant economic strategy, which reduced illegal immigration pressures, is not a substitute for a border policy.

The border needs to be better controlled, not with rhetoric (the Democrats’ problem) but with real agents, fences and electronic equipment and—pay attention, Republicans—this will cost a lot of money. Don’t claim you are for something but then restrict the funds to implement it.

We need to have a follow-up policy for those who get temporary visas, because “overstays” probably account for as much as two-thirds of the illegal immigrant population. (Going to El Paso for dinner is legal, staying for 30 years is not.)

The business community should not be the enforcement mechanism without some legal immunity and sound Social Security verification systems. Some who don’t understand economics think this is a free solution and that it fixes the problems. It is just one tiny part.

These are but a few of the areas that both sides need to accept because, if they don’t, the legislation not only won’t pass, but will not work if passed. Congress has kicked the can down the road for decades. We cannot afford to continue to do so. The Hispanic wave is slowing down but the Asian tide is just starting.

Some realism and compromise is needed in Washington. Fat chance.•

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Souder, a former business owner and Republican representative of the 4th Congressional District, is a political commentator living in Fort Wayne. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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