Editorial: Shutdown averted, but roots of immigration crisis are untouched

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted2/12/2019 9:54 PM
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  • In this Jan. 9 photo, a woman next to the border wall topped with razor wire in Tijuana, Mexico. Congressional negotiators reached a deal to prevent a government shutdown and to construct new barriers on the southern border.

    In this Jan. 9 photo, a woman next to the border wall topped with razor wire in Tijuana, Mexico. Congressional negotiators reached a deal to prevent a government shutdown and to construct new barriers on the southern border. Associated Press

If, as shaky appearances suggest at the moment, the bipartisan deal on immigration averts a looming new government shutdown, that will be a good thing on some level.

Taxpayers will get their refunds. More than 800,000 workers will get their regular paychecks. Federal parks will be open, and health and safety regulations of all kinds will be managed. Government business will continue. These are important outcomes.

Of course, another outcome is that politicians will have room to spin the averted crisis so that they save face and score political points, but that is not an important one. To the contrary, it does almost nothing to address the immigration issues that have simmered for more than a decade.

For, the immigration deal has much to do with politics and almost nothing to do with the immigration problem. The president gets a little less than a billion and a half dollars for something he can call a wall -- and perhaps he'll supplement that with some other political sleight of hand -- but it has been well documented that this will do little to stem the tide of illegal immigration and almost nothing to stem the tide of drug smuggling and human trafficking. The Democrats will get a peculiar, vague limit on immigration arrests that supposedly will help focus enforcement on the most violent and dangerous immigrant offenders.

And, the costly and inhumane game of policing the southern border will go on virtually undaunted.

If we could take anything of substance from this crisis, it should be a commitment to address the realities producing and encouraging illegal immigration into the United States. We're not holding our breath that politicians on either side will make that commitment, but we must at least hope.

The two chief components of America's immigration glut are the conditions in the immigrants' home countries that cause them to flee, and the actions of businesses and employers in our country that make it possible for them to find work and stay here. These have been the chief drivers of the issue since immigration activists were flooding the streets of Chicago and other American cities at least two presidential administrations ago. If political leaders really want to address the situation in a way that is humanitarian and effective, they must get beyond an endless strategy of block and deport.

Instead, we should be continuing to clamp down on employers who skirt the law, while finding better ways for businesses to get the workers they need. Even more important and perhaps more urgent, we should be talking a lot more seriously about providing economic assistance and shoulder-to-shoulder partnerships with Central and South American countries so that families can stay home and not risk their lives and endure brutal hardships to escape violence or poverty. If we can conceive of $6 billion for a "big, beautiful wall" and hundreds of millions annually for pointless "catch and release," can we not find money to help our friends protect and employ their own people?

Sure, we can be thankful that the U.S. government will remain open for business for another several months until the next crisis, but let's not be fooled into thinking we've done anything about immigration. Until we get serious about addressing the issue at its source, we're going to continue to engage in these periodic silly political battles from standoff to standoff and never solve the problem.

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