Let’s get it straight. Open political warfare over immigration reform isn’t starting with President Obama’s pre-Thanksgiving Executive Order on immigration.
It started more than 16 months ago when the U.S. Senate did something amazing in this age of congressional gridlock, passing a compromise immigration reform bill with bipartisan input and support.
That proposed legislation was controversial on both sides of the partisan political and ideological spectrums.
Some Democrats and plenty of progressives were upset by the onerous and long (up to 13 years) pathway to citizenship and by enormous profiteering opportunities for corporate contractors built into proposed new border security measures.
Most Republicans, and dare I say almost all conservatives, were outraged by the idea of any pathway to citizenship at all, and wanted even more spending on border security.
It was that very split opinion, the frustration and discontent on both sides, that revealed the bill to be a legislative compromise worth making in the name of national progress.
Personally I disliked it, for those progressive objections noted above. And yet I would’ve huffed and puffed and lived with it as a first step forward, as I think the overwhelming majority of Floridians and Americans would have too.
But then the largely Tea Party-driven U.S. House Republican delegation dug in its “Just Say No!” obstructionist heels, pandering to its most conservative constituents in advance of the 2014 elections.
Nothing got done.
Fast-forward about 500 days. Our president was compelled to act, just as Republican predecessors have acted in years past.
Nearly one in 11 undocumented immigrants residing in the USA now lives in Florida, almost 900,000 people.
They help grow and harvest our huge agricultural bounty, tend our lawns and gardens, clean our houses and care for our kids. They serve us in restaurants and hotels, do day labor nobody else will, and more.
They almost uniformly make minimum wage or less, are the repeated victims of wage theft, have no health insurance coverage or paid sick leave, and yet, they hang in and hang on to whatever little they have to sustain themselves and their families.
In return, their neighborhoods and homes are repeatedly raided by deportation officers, parents are torn from children’s arms and deported, and thousands are jammed into privately run, for-profit jails and “detention centers” run by corporations donating millions to politicians such as Gov. Rick Scott.
Contrary to conservative propaganda and fear mongering, these people are not taking or competing for “our” jobs anywhere nearly as much as they’re doing the thankless jobs that most others avoid.
In doing so, they keep Florida going, just as they do a number of other states.
Think that’s liberal rhetoric?
Go ahead, keep deporting more and more of them and see how that goes, see how that affects your quality of life.
Even with the big spike in deportations during President Obama’s administration, Florida’s undocumented population keeps growing. We simply cannot deport our way out of this humanitarian and economic crisis.
Nor can we erect a fence around Florida reaching from the depths of our Atlantic and Gulf waters up past the tops of our tallest trees. We are going to have to come together and accept, if not embrace, a political and legislative compromise that moves us forward in significant, measurable ways.
Best way to start is to reject the knee-jerk conservative Republican propaganda storm in coming days, and keep your mind and heart open, to progress.
Daniel Tilson has a Boca Raton-based communications firm called Full Cup Media, specializing in online video and written content for non-profits, political candidates and organizations, and small businesses. Column courtesy of Context Florida.