By Frank Sharry
There is no way to sugar coat it. Immigrant workers and families hungering for legalization, Americans wanting their leaders to solve problems on a bipartisan basis, and advocates like us who believe America is best served by a comprehensive approach to our dysfunctional immigration system suffered a significant setback today.
What happens next in Congress is unclear. But what happens on the ground is not. Immigrant workers and families will continue to live in fear, die in the desert, and be subject to exploitation. Local communities will continue to be roiled by federal inaction and local ordinances. Voters will continue to ask why their elected leaders seem incapable of solving tough problems.
Nevertheless, we remain confident that the arc of history bends toward justice. In the short term, the anti-immigrant forces on the right and the critics on the left will claim victory. But in the long-term, we believe the public and its leaders will come to see that the only way to bring immigrants and immigration out of the shadows and under the rule of law is by combining enforcement at the border and in the workplace with enhanced legal channels for workers and families and a path to eventual citizenship for the nation’s 12 million undocumented immigrants. Moreover, in the long-term, we believe that politicians who deny the fastest growing group of new voters a warm embrace will find themselves on the wrong side of history.
America is at its best when we come together and rise above the intolerance and polarization that dog racially charged policy issues. We may have fallen short today, but we remain optimistic that America’s best days are still ahead of her, and that broad, just, and humane immigration reform is still a matter of when, not if.
Frank Sharry is Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigrant advocacy group in Washington.