In an election cycle during which backlash against police shootings has inspired social movements, heroin abuse has hit epidemic levels, overpasses and bridges are collapsing underneath us, and climate change is still being questioned by people who are actually running for president, one issue has stood out as the go-to hot button topic:
What are we going to do about all these ding-dang illegal immigrants living and working among us?
Admittedly, that's a pretty glib summation of a topic that warrants serious discussion. But some people think the issues listed above could get more attention if undocumented immigrants weren't bleeding America dry of our financial resources. Whether you have a "live and let live" approach or you're convinced that every person with a foreign accent is destroying this country from within, you're probably operating under some false assumptions about the issue. For example ...
6All Republicans Hate Undocumented Immigrants
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Everyone knows the Republican party has a throbbing righteous boner for sending undocumented people back from whence they came. As far as 2016's GOP presidential contenders are concerned, this is absolutely correct. Ted Cruz wants every option on the table: a border wall, more deportations, a moratorium on illegal immigration until more Americans have jobs, and something about biometrics.
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"I don't really know what it means. I just like it 'cause it sounds all sciency."
And Cruz's plan is the more logical of the two GOP frontrunners. Trump's immigration plan, which he clearly wrote himself, is to make wiring money outside the country illegal for immigrants unless they have their citizenship documents on hand. Which he then assumes will make Mexico angry. (He specifically says "Mexico," as if all immigrants are Mexican. More on that in a minute.) To quote his plan directly:
On day 3 tell Mexico that if the Mexican government will contribute the funds needed to the United States to pay for the wall, the Trump Administration will not promulgate the final rule, and the regulation will not go into effect.
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"This is directed to Mexico's Ministry of Accepting Payments and Dispatching Rapists."
Basically, if Mexico agrees to pay for a giant wall on its border with the U.S., the U.S. will then benevolently allow Mexican immigrants to send their money out of the country. (It is important to note that Trump has no problem with rich white men like himself pouring money into offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes.) Trump's solution to illegal immigration is to play the part of the world's least competent mafia boss: He asks for protection money to get what he wants without offering protection to his victims. Something tells us he'll definitely get that wall from Mexico if he wins.
The point is that if your eyes are trained on Cruz and Trump, a very clear message comes out of the Republican party: Get illegal aliens out of America.
Much like undocumented immigrants themselves, Republicans are all over the map when it comes to immigration reform. Donald Trump's plan is so far out of the mainstream of traditional GOP policy that he is an extremist in his own party.
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Though any description of him as such just pushes his numbers higher.
For context, the last time a major illegal immigration law hit the books was 1986. Back in those days, a Democrat and a Republican joined forces under Ronald Reagan to pass the Immigration Reform and Control Act. Thanks to that law, almost three million undocumented immigrants were granted amnesty and became U.S. citizens. The same Ronald Reagan whom hardline Republicans like Ted Cruz treat like royalty naturalized three million immigrants, presumably while wearing Reeboks and walking like an Egyptian.
There was one major problem with the 1986 law: The writers assumed their mass amnesty would somehow stop the flow of future immigrants. It didn't. Experts now say the law created an incentive for some sectors of the workforce to recruit more undocumented immigrants, since their previous workers were now legit. And that's why we've progressed from around five million undocumented immigrants in 1986 to over 11 million today. Nobody's arguing that point. What's crucial to remember here is that many Republicans have historically favored immigrant-friendly policies.
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The missing Watergate tapes showed Nixon naturalizing 2,000 Cubans.
Five days before 9/11, George W. Bush invited Mexican President Vicente Fox to Congress to give a speech in Spanish setting up future immigrant discussion between the U.S. and Mexico. For all his faults, Bush had a passion for easing the paths of workers who would have been Texans if not for the pesky Rio Grande.
The terrorist attacks tabled the discussion, of course. But Bush was undeterred! In 2007, he threw what was left of his political capital behind a Ted Kennedy / John McCain jam called The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act. Once again, the law would have provided a path of legalization for immigrants and their kids. And it was shut down in the Senate when more conservative Republicans argued that it didn't provide enough funding for enforcement. Ted Cruz, by the way, help craft Bush's immigration agenda, according to Cruz's former colleagues.
But back to 2016 and who believes what about illegal immigrants. The most businessy, Republicany-sounding entity of all time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is super pro-immigrant. At the top of their list of priorities is making visas more accessible. At the bottom of their list is securing American borders. Within the Republican Party itself are conservative Christian groups (including the Catholic Church itself) who support helping undocumented immigrants to the best of their ability.
And let's not forget Jesus' Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, about the necessity of migrant labor.
And it's more than ordinary salt of the earth conservatives who have a vested interest in legalizing millions of immigrants. Party officials from districts with large Hispanic populations have come up with all kinds of creative paths for citizen recruitment, like asking for undocumented immigrants to be able to serve in the military to gain legalization. With all the attention the two GOP frontrunners get on the issue of immigration, pro-reform politicians are overshadowed. For instance, John Kasich suggested that undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay as long as they haven't broken any laws and they pay some kind of penalty, and Jeb Bush thinks mass deportation "would tear communities apart."
Long story short: Bushes love immigrants.
5Sanctuary Cities Are Lawless Hellholes
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Sprinkled across America and Canada are locations often called "sanctuary cities," where officials have explicitly or implicitly said they won't investigate the status of their undocumented residents, even the criminal ones. So if you are an undocumented immigrant living in San Francisco or Philadelphia and you happen to have a taste for ganja or DUIs, local police aren't going to go out of their way to get you deported back to Drunkweedistan.
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Let's not even get into "Iceland."
Illegal immigrants who have already been caught dealing heroin or murdering people should be fair game for deportation, right? That's why everyone from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump were pissed when a Mexican man who was previously deported FIVE TIMES shot and killed a bystander in San Francisco in the summer of 2015. Their mutual anger at San Francisco was the first thing Trump and Clinton agreed on since they both ordered the fish at Trump's 2005 wedding.
These places didn't arbitrarily receive the blessing of a Mexican Blue Immigrant Fairy who appeared out of the ether to bestow "SANCTUARY CITY" on their hapless wooden heads. Their community activists and local law enforcement groups advocated for it.
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The hunchback lobby remained surprisingly silent.
Why? Imagine doing immigration research and paperwork after every routine traffic stop or panhandling citation of an undocumented person. If it helps, picture the city of Los Angeles emptying its pockets and shrugging when asked why it doesn't start deportation paperwork every time an undocumented immigrant is arrested. Plus, "11 million undocumented residents" is another way of saying "11 million undocumented victims, witnesses, snitches, and neighborhood advocates," and the crime world is a murky place. If you're a detective hunting down a killer, you don't want your witnesses and victims refusing to come forward because they're worried about getting deported.
"But wait!" you might be thinking, "We're starting with 11 million lawbreakers. Some of those illegal immigrants are, statistically speaking, dangerous murderers, like ol' Mr. Five-Time Deported Murderer from earlier."
San Francisco Sheriff's Department
With a name like that, he was destined for trouble.
That's true, but again, sanctuary cities know that "the crime rate among first-generation immigrants ... is significantly lower than the overall crime rate." They also know that undocumented immigrants in their districts are 70 percent less likely to report themselves as victims when something terrible happens, which ultimately makes life harder for the men and women who are trying to keep their cities safe.
And it turns out the immigrants are right to be scared to death of authority figures. In 2013, President Obama deported 240,000 undocumented immigrants who had zero prior convictions. The same year, he deported 200,000 undocumented immigrants who did have convictions. So if you were an undocumented immigrant minding your own business, doing your job, and staying out of trouble, you were more likely to get booted out of the country than people who broke the law.