Published:  November 28, 2011

Watching presidential debates is not one of my favorite things to do, mainly because I have a hard time believing a single word coming out of any of the participants’ mouths.  The posturing is so obvious, with each candidate trying their hardest to get their sound bites in, and say the things their “people” tell them they need to say.  So it was by accident – while looking for enjoyable garbage to watch on the Dumb Box (my mother’s affectionate term for the television), that I happened upon the debate involving Republican candidates for President last week.  At the moment I tuned in, the one topic I have more than a little familiarity with was being argued, U.S. immigration policy.  So I gave it a listen, curious to hear if any honest conversation was going on, or if it was going to be the usual festival of scare tactics, half-truths and snake oil pitches all too common in political arena immigration discussions.

What I heard: mainly the familiar cries for anything but the incumbent’s policies.  “We have to enforce the border”.  “We can’t have an amnesty….or have any talk about a path to citizenship, without first securing our borders…” (with hand stomping on podium……and praying for applause).  But, the question these politicians have a hard time answering, and do not want to answer is “what does securing the border mean?”  By repeating the “secure the border” cry in trancelike fashion, the politician seeks to avoid the next, elephant in the middle of the room, question of what do we do with the 12 million undocumented who are already here.  Of course these candidates will also do their best to avoid talking about how Barack Obama has facilitated record numbers of deportations during his term and has successfully amped up our border strength with advanced technologies and increased manpower.

However, one candidate, Newt Gingrich, had the nerve to talk truth about immigration, and touch on the 12 million dollar question – suggesting a “humane” immigration policy and confessing he would not remove all illegal immigrants that are currently in the country:

“I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who have been here a quarter century, who have children and grandchildren, who are members of the community, who may have done something 25 years ago, separate them from their families, and expel them,”

Now that took nerve.  Here in the midst of a gathering of the Republican’s best and brightest, Newt Gingrich took a risk and said what every other candidate deep down truly believes.  Of course our society will not be removing all of our undocumented.  That fact alone is evident in the practice of the various administrations in office over the past generation, no matter the party affiliation.  Newt’s statement nevertheless drew the predictable chorus of accusations that he is “soft” on immigration, and that irresponsible statements like his show he will be inclined toward creating policy that encourages more illegal immigration since the law breakers of the past will now be rewarded with green cards.

Let’s forget about the fact that for more than the past generation our society has implemented a de facto amnesty anyway, where we look the other way when it comes to our undocumented  immigrants who are not committing crimes, but instead are committed to cleaning up our homes, taking care of our elderly or installing our new dry wall.  No one at the Republican debate acknowledged that fact, and that our de facto amnesty is already a significant “magnet” to encourage people to come here based on the predominant motivation at play – that life in the U.S. without status is better than the futureless, hopeless life that awaits back in an opportunity-less and/or corrupt homeland.

Maybe Gingrich is already looking ahead and plotting a strategy for the November, 2012 general election.  Or maybe he was just having a moment of unavoidable arrogant clarity.  Whatever the case, it seems that notwithstanding the immediate schoolyard name-calling his immigration remarks prompted from his opponents, Gingrich stated an indisputable reality:   the undocumented population with deep roots in the U.S. and who are otherwise law-abiding, are not going home voluntarily, and further, face almost no chance of ever being deported.  Mitt knows it.  Rick knows it.  Herman knows it.  And even Michelle knows it.

Copyright © 2011, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois