EDITORIAL: America Deserves Better

On Tuesday morning, February 13, the Washington Post reported thus: "The Senate passed a $95 billion national security package to aid Israel, Ukraine and other U.S. allies early Tuesday after a months-long debate that has deeply divided congressional Republicans. The bill passed 70 to 29, after 22 Republicans joined Democrats in approving the aid.
"But House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) preemptively rejected the legislation on Monday night, saying in a statement that the package’s failure to address U.S. border security makes it a nonstarter in the House.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

“'In the absence of having received any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters,” Johnson said in a statement. 'America deserves better than the Senate’s status quo.'

"Johnson and other House leaders helped torpedo an earlier version of the legislation that includes sweeping border security measures and other reforms."

There are serious politicians working on Capitol Hill. There have also been all too many charlatans and cynical operators down the years. We are suffering an over abundance of the latter right now.

Yes, America deserves better. America deserves better than the machinations of this flatulent farce of a Congress.

There is no doubt that the nation's immigration system is in a crisis. It has been a mess for decades because immigration has been treated like a political football rather than a serious policy issue deserving of serious consideration by serious politicians.

There are serious politicians working on Capitol Hill. There have also been all too many charlatans and cynical operators down the years. We are suffering an over abundance of the latter right now.

This newspaper, founded by an immigrant, has covered immigration for more than nine decades. Back in the 1980s and 90s we covered the phenomenon that was the undocumented or illegal Irish. Congress managed to bring relief to many thousands of those Irish by way of various visa bills.

The early nineties, then, was the last time that Congress seriously considered ways of helping people who would turn out to be a tremendous asset to their adopted new homeland. There was later legislation, but it focused more on securing the border and punishing violators of immigration law.

The United States has a right to control its border. That's a given. The United States also has a problem given that it remains a beacon of hope for people all over the world. Between control and attraction sits the present problem.

And along the way we have moved from immigrants to migrants. The former term, even if the immigrant be undocumented and illegal, always retained some minimal level of respect and legitimacy.

The word "migrant" does not. Being a migrant in America today is akin to being an alleged communist in the 1950s. This is, sadly, the case in at least certain parts of the country and in some quarters on Capitol Hill.

We have a problem with migration, sure. Other countries are having to deal with migrants and refugees, Ireland included.

Clearly there needs to be order at the U.S. border, legislation that effectively deals with the various surges of people reaching for the American Dream. The U.S. also has to work with a number of countries to make it less of a live or die situation for their citizens so that there is no need to leave in the first place. Some countries are willing to cooperate in such efforts, some or not. 

The problem might be at America's door. But responsibility for the problem is often to be found elsewhere. Few would blame a Venezuelan for wanting to get out from under the crushing burden of oppression and hopelessness in that country right now. Few would envy the kind of reception that many from that country are facing in the United States.

Congress could help. But all too many members are eyeing an election issue in an election year and in doing so are making people who are already in deep trouble victims a second time over.

Comprehensive immigration reform has been needed for years. Congress came close in 2013 with a bill that was passed in the Senate and killed in the House. That sounds familiar.

Reform is needed now more than ever. Also needed is an international effort to tackle the root causes of forced migration. This is not a task for one year or one country. It is a task for multiple countries and for every year from now on.