Fair immigration compromise possible without shutdown

Is there a fair, reasonable way to deal with immigration without shutting down the government as the Democrats did just recently?

Yes.

A way to save the “Dreamers” and build President Donald Trump’s wall to protect the borders, and lower the anxiety of millions of Dreamer parents, those immigrants who crossed over illegally for a better life in America.

A way for Americans to accept immigration policy as fair, not just something jammed down their throats by politicians.

We’d have to take the tribal politics out of it, and we probably should stop weaponizing the immigrants for future elections. But it can be done.

Yet not until we admit what went terribly wrong with the failed Charles Schumer shutdown, when the Senate minority leader and the Democrats held the American government hostage to their version of immigration politics and then caved after Democratic senators seeking re-election in 2018 realized voters wouldn’t stand for it.

Perhaps a good jumping-off point are the comments of the famous sage of Chicago, Luis the Lip, champion of Democratic immigration plans, who offered to build Trump’s wall with his own soft political Chicago hands to save the Dreamers.

“If that is what it is going to take to get 800,000 young men and women and give them a chance to live freely and openly in America, then I’ll roll up my sleeves, I’ll go down there with bricks and mortar and begin the wall,” U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez said on CNN before the Democrats broke down.

Sadly, it didn’t happen, although I’d pay to watch Gutierrez do something with his hands other than risk paper cuts. Just seeing Luis do real work and then driving home bone-tired would be worth a few bucks. It might even be better than a movie.

Unfortunately, Luis’ hands aren’t made for bricks and mortar. Yet even as he promised to help build Trump’s wall, I heard something in his voice: the sound of Democrats caving.

And soon, the shutdown was over, the Dreamers felt betrayed, the hard left was livid, and Trump and the Republicans had an amazing victory in the immigration debate.

Unfortunately, some in the Democratic Media Complex are having a difficult time dealing with this reality.

Some are still in denial, pretending there were no winners and losers. Others clearly seek refuge in fantasy. Happily, most of us wake up from our dreams to live in the place where reality bites. And there it is: The Democrats caved, and Trump and the Republicans won.

Why?

Because on the immigration debate, Democrats were on the wrong side of the American people. To their credit, a few realized this fact, perhaps even Gutierrez.

Now what?

There is room for compromise on immigration, the American people want it, some Republicans and even some Democrats want it.

The first thing to do is to figure out what should be done about the Dreamers, those hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to this country illegally by their parents, who are themselves here illegally.

The Dreamers are in limbo through no fault of their own, trapped between two cultures, with no place of their own to legally call home. Yet opinion polls show that much of the America public is sympathetic to their plight.

So let the Dreamers stay. Those who are in criminal gangs or have violent criminal records have no right to be here. But the others, sure, why not?

It would be quite easy to protect the Dreamers and their parents, except for the politics.

Democrats want them as votes. Republicans are worried this could tip elections. So why not take the politics out of it?

Here’s a possibility to consider: Let Dreamers stay — given permanent work and resident status — but not citizenship and voting rights. Conferring something as precious as citizenship upon people as a reward for their parents’ breaking the law isn’t the right way to go about this.

If they want to become American citizens and vote, they’d be free to leave and attempt to re-enter the country as legal immigrants.

If protecting Dreamers is the issue, then you’ll agree with me. But if weaponizing the Dreamers for the next election is your plan, then you won’t.

And what about their parents, who crossed the border illegally and who worry about being deported? We can protect them, too, with some reasonable amnesty.

Why not give them permanent work status, like green cards?

But no welfare. Yes, you read that correctly.

The idea isn’t to penalize people in this country illegally who would be given legal status in any amnesty. The idea is about convincing Americans that amnesty would be about fairness, not power. Those who enter our country illegally shouldn’t be given government benefits that would lock them in as permanent clients of the Democratic Party, compelling them to vote for taxpayer-subsidized benefits.

Banning such benefits would be an important and reasonable step. It would convince Americans that decency, rather than raw Chicago Way power politics, is what should drive immigration policy.

Again, no citizenship, unless those here illegally first leave the country and petition to re-enter legally.

And in exchange for all this, where a border wall is required, we should build it. American employers should be required to immediately use the E-Verify program to determine whether new workers have legal status or not.

Those workers who don’t have legal status should be turned over to immigration authorities and deported.

It’s called compromise. You get some of what you want. The other guy gets some of what he wants.

But it must be understood as fair, not just for the immigrants, but for the American people who believe that this is their country, and they still have a say in who stays and who goes.

John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. His Twitter handle is @john_kass.

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