Thursday, June 28, 2007
We are extremely distressed by the course of events leading to the 46-53 defeat of comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate this morning. Not because we supported passage of the bill under debate -- we did not -- but because the state of discourse over immigration and the choices given to the American people have become so poor.
The discourse brought us to a lose-lose situation where a bill containing so many harmful provisions -- one likely to become even more harsh as the process unfolded -- could be presented as the only opportunity to achieve some limited measure of humanity for the undocumented workers and their families who disproportionately perform some of the nation's toughest and lowest paying jobs. It brought us to a situation where those arguing passionately on the Senate floor for such a problematic bill included many of the senators who are most committed to the cause of fairness for immigrants. They pleaded for the Senate to let the process go forward, in the hope that the bill would be fundamentally improved prior to enactment.
Now we will never know whether that would have happened, though there is reason to believe that the same dynamics that pulled the bill further and further from decency in the Senate would also have prevailed in the House. That is very sad.
Still, this is not the end of the quest for just and humane immigration reform. Realistically, no one bill was ever going to solve all of our immigration problems. Likewise, no single vote can be allowed to end our struggle. We are now in the middle of one of the periodic flare-ups of anti-immigrant hostility that have recurred throughout the nation's history. Those flames, like the previous ones, will eventually die down, whereas the demographic and economic realities that require resolution will endure and continue to grow, as will the movement for justice by immigrant communities and their supporters.