McCain, Rubio Right on Immigration

Tuesday, 29 Jan 2013 06:19 AM

By Christopher Ruddy

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Monday, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including John McCain and Marco Rubio, offered a bold plan to deal with America's massive illegal alien problem.

While the full details of the plan have not yet been released, the outline of the plan detailed by the senators appears to be a sensible one.

Barring any surprises, it is a plan that should be embraced by both sides of the political aisle.

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Today, an estimated 11 million illegal aliens reside in the United States. Some hope these people will simply disappear. But they won't.

There is no way you can practically have a program of either deportation or, as Mitt Romney proposed in the last campaign, "self deportation."

While it is true that those who illegally reside here broke the law, it is also true that lawbreakers can be forgiven.

I believe we can easily forgive those who believe they will have a better life by living and working in the United States. Many of these individuals endured hardships to come to the United States. In my book, they have passed the first test of being an American.

For Republicans, there is a political upside to enacting this plan. Senator McCain, candid as usual, admitted that the last election was devastating for Republicans. Failure to address the issue of illegal aliens in a humane manner, he said, will only further marginalize the Republican Party.

Hispanic voters gave record votes to President Barack Obama and the Democrats. Republicans, heirs to a party that was founded on its advocacy of civil rights and helping the underdog, have once again fallen on the wrong side of a critical issue.

The 2012 exit polls were very telling as to how the nation feels about this issue. Asked how "illegal immigrants working in the United States" should be treated, 65 percent — almost two-thirds of the electorate — said such illegals should be given a chance to apply for legal status.

I have written several times about the need for Republicans to hold a broader view on this issue. (See in 2009: More Legal Immigration Please!)

Americans are first and foremost angered about our porous border. They want the border secure. The Senate plan will dramatically increase border controls.

Additionally, Americans want illegal immigrants to pay taxes. They don't like free riders, non-citizens who are benefiting from government programs without paying for them. Illegals will now be given work permits and be taxed like other working Americans.

The Senate plan also calls for additional fines and restitution. That is fair.

And citizenship is not granted immediately. You may recall that in the 1980s President Ronald Reagan signed a sweeping amnesty law. Today, with the economy in a deep recession and the border still less than secure, there is no political consensus in favor of full amnesty.

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Frankly, blanket amnesty at this time would throw the nation's fragile political balance dramatically in favor of the Democratic Party.

The Senate plan is a compromise plan. Those that apply for citizenship are required to take civics lessons and for the first time learn English. Bravo!

Reportedly, those with work permits will not be able to get citizenship for some 10 to 15 years. This will allow the political and economic system to digest such a large cohort of new citizens.

At the same time I hope that the Senate and the full Congress addresses what former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has called for — a comprehensive immigration plan. We are a nation of immigrants and have succeeded because of our immigrants.

With the Boomer crisis well underway and tens of millions of more residents soon to retire, our economy desperately needs new productive, taxpaying citizens.

We need a "best and brightest" immigration program that opens our doors to people all around the world, of every race color and creed, who have something positive to contribute to this nation.

Some conservatives and anti-immigrant groups (many of whom are liberals) will oppose the Senate plan.

But they are in denial. They are in denial that this plan is a sensible one.

They are in denial that America is changing and that as a nation we must embrace the demographic facts on the ground.

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Instead of fighting against the current, let's focus on bringing these new citizens into our system, welcoming them and educating them to our culture, institutions and democratic traditions.

This time let's be on the side of the underdog.

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