Immigration then, immigration now, immigration forever.
Regardless of where you stand on the topic, America is a nation of immigrants. People have flocked to our country long before it was a country united. They continue to come even as we are a country divided.
America is the land of opportunity but criticized by many of its own inhabitants for extending welcoming arms to those who wish to come here in an attempt to better their lives. Strangely, millions of people outside our shores recognize what many of our own countrymen do not — that this is truly the greatest country on earth.
I’m not going to apologize for unabashed patriotism. Many countries on earth still exist amid a primitive lifestyle — struggling with polluted water, poverty, famine and, in many instances, war because of those conditions.
Our country on the other hand offers a protective umbrella for those who seek it. We have good health care, decent roads, public services and the freedom to do just about anything within a nation of laws.
The lawful concept is, of course, at the center of the debate over the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants. It’s a firestorm that our president helped enflame last month by taking matters into his own hands after an intractable Congress failed to act.
Personally, I think that most Americans don’t like what they see from either the executive or legislative branch, which suggests why so many incumbents are getting booted from office. It’s the voters’ way of keeping things straight. The trouble with that approach, of course, is that a lot of good leaders are getting tossed because of their political party.
The truth is, immigration has always been a vital part of this country’s history. We need these immigrants. They may tax our resources, but they also buy our goods. They do much of the work that needs to be done. Often, they bring talents and skills and start businesses that contribute to the greater good.
Then why, we say, don’t they do things legally? If they are going to live in America, why don’t they play by the rules? That’s easy to say, but the rulebook is so fouled up at the moment that even those who attempt to become citizens face a years-long wait. Mr. Obama recognizes this — and so does Congress. Yet neither is willing to compromise, and the president went way out on a limb by unilaterally acting to legalize several million people. That decision could well muddy any chance he has at working with legislators during the remainder of his term.
I don’t expect a major immigration bill from the next Congress. But I do expect the surge of immigrants to continue, which is going to leave us with a worsening situation and in desperate need of a workable law.
So, Congress and Mr. President, are you capable of rising to the challenge?
Our immigrant Founding Fathers certainly were — and they faced far bigger obstacles than this.
Dennis Grubaugh is editor and partner of the Illinois Business Journal.