Immigration tears us apart

It’s been another bad week for politics. The government’s temporary shutdown, which may lead to another in a couple of weeks, has exacerbated our country’s division over immigration. This chasm is tearing us apart.

The subject is complex and highly emotional. First let it be pointed out that there are two avenues of discontent. The first is immigration itself, the other is how we each feel about current immigration policy. As usual, the problem is magnified by two extreme views. The left wing of the Democratic Party calls for open borders, unlimited immigration and amnesty for immigrants here illegally. The Republican right wing wants to stop immigration and favors deportation of all immigrants here illegally. And, no surprise, most of us are somewhere in the middle.

Closing the government by one party in order to hold the other political hostage on the subject of immigration is not only wrong, but it drives another wedge between the voters and the politicians whom they elect. There is enough blame to go around for both sides, but we are all sick and tired of the blame game getting in the way of practical solutions. It is a situation that calls out for a common-sense solution.

Here is where I believe the average American stands on the subject of immigration:

We don’t hate immigrants; in our family tree we are all immigrants, and we don’t want to tear families apart by sending the “dreamers” back to a country that their parents fled from to give them a better life here. However, we are concerned for our safety by the existence of porous borders, by the threat of infiltration by Islamist terrorists, and yes, by the wave of so many who now come with very different values and beliefs.

It is a different time. These are not the immigrants of Europe who found little trouble in assimilating. I know many of my comments will be construed as politically incorrect, but let’s face it — attempts at immigration reform have failed for almost 30 years, and that is why we face the predicament that we are now in. So, as I conduct my own self analysis on where we should be on immigration, some points become evident.

1. We need immigrant workers — many have become outstanding citizens, some entrepreneurs, some even leaders in medicine and technology.

Solution: For our safety, increase and enforce border security, place an annual cap on the amount of immigrants allowed to join us, make the vetting system more strenuous, and develop a merit system to assure more of those accepted bring some talents and skills with them so that they contribute to our economy while providing a better life for themselves and their families. Just as so many outstanding immigrants have done before them.

2. Some form of DACA, the DREAM act, must be enacted.

Solution: We do not wish to destroy immigrant families. But blanket amnesty should not be granted to those who broke the law while others came here legally. Instead the young immigrants brought here by their parents illegally must be granted a way to citizenship. Parents who have led decent lives, committed no serious crimes, and pose no threat should be granted a formula to be followed to gain eventual legal status.

A solution to our country’s great divide on immigration based on common sense and compromise can be achieved. Drop the idea of an unrealistic, multibillion-dollar physical wall, then pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes limitations and border enforcement with some physical barriers where feasible.

There should be no amnesty, but a new formula for citizenship to be earned by those who disregarded the law while others respected it. And, passage of a reasonable, sensible version of an act to prevent deportation of young dreamers who believe in America, and are now part of a great country that they never want to involuntarily leave.

Strong, sensible, safety measures combined with compassion — that should be our immigration policy.

Now, some local notes…

Buzz from my last column on who will be the Democrat candidate in the Augusta area’s Senate District 15 indicates from various sources that “Wick” Johnson’s decision hangs on a current business situation.

Meanwhile, in the race to succeed Republican Rep. Matt Pouliot, now a candidate in District 15, word is that Augusta City Councilor at-large Jen Day is pondering a run for the Democratic nomination for the House.

Finally, congratulations to all the award winners at this years Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce dinner, especially friends Norm Elvin, a most deserving recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award, and former Councilman Cecil Munson, a tireless worker for his community.

Don Roberts is a veteran broadcaster, writer and political consultant. He has served Augusta as a city councilor at-large, charter commission vice chairman and utilities district treasurer.