There was no one in my childhood years I felt closer to than my great-grandmother. Julia Kravchak died when I was nine years old, but she left a huge impression on me. One of the values her life instilled in me was my support of immigrants in our nation. She came over in one of the last ships before the more exclusionary immigration laws of 1924 went into effect, a dark moment in our history, joining her husband who had come here for a chance to find work, and flee communism in Czechoslovakia. I thank God every day that they made that decision, and that America welcomed them. My current existence can be traced to them.
My political career has been influenced by these values. I’ve worked for candidates who largely have supported immigrant rights. A few years ago, I worked for a young woman in Iowa who came here as a war refugee from Bosnia. Getting to know her story, I’ve grown to admire it. The best of the United States is shown when we open our doors to refugees and those who need sanctuary in our nation. When we are a welcoming people, we are a great people.
There are limitations though to anything. Whether we’re talking about Ellis Island, or refugees, they come to the United States via a legal process. Much of the political debate around immigration in 2018 centers around people who did not. I think most fair people agree that we don’t want to go down Donald Trump’s road for immigration- deportation squads, walls, deporting veterans, and destroying families. I think most decent people agree that we want ICE and other federal authorities to follow laws, show compassion, and treat undocumented immigrants with humanity. Literally almost all of us support allowing the DREAMers to stay in America, they came here as children and never willingly violated our laws. There is broad agreement for us being a decent and humane country. There is not broad agreement for lawlessness and “anything goes” enforcement though.
The United States is still a nation, and nations have borders and laws. I support “sanctuary city” laws personally, only because I think it helps law enforcement do their job, but I’m conflicted there. If someone is arrested, be it for murder, rape, drunken driving, gang activity, theft, or any other felony or serious misdemeanor, I am for that person being thrown out of the United States. I also think you have to enforce penalties and sanctions against employers who knowingly are employing undocumented immigrants “off the books.” For one, it’s exploitation of them as workers. Secondly, it’s unfair to everyone in the legal employment market, who’s wages are often undercut by workers who are forced into low wages because of their immigration status. Immigration should not endanger a community or hurt legal workers. We have to enforce our laws.
Most decent and honest people in this country can see the nuances and understand the challenges we face. We don’t want an immigration policy based on the racist concept of “white identity,” but one based on fairness, decency, and law. Republicans have done a good job though at making Democrats appear to be extremists, a political party willing to support lawless behavior and crisis to win an election. It is not true, but as long as the perception holds, it will hinder Democratic chances at victory. Make no mistake, Republicans will use every caravan from Central America, and any bad people on it, to scare their base into showing up in 2018. It is unfair and unjust, but it is reality.
Democrats need to stand up and be clear, beyond just supporting DACA. Democrats need to be humane, fair, and reasonable on immigration, arguing for a solution to the problem, but also supporting our workers and keeping our communities safe. Don’t support bad actors, but call out the absurdity of the American right’s position on immigration. If we do that, I believe most Americans will hear us, elect us, and let us comprehensively solve the problem. If we let ourselves become extremists in the other direction though, we will probably lose.