Before Congress can pass comprehensive immigration reform, the first thing we have to do is lift the fog. This means confronting the top-to-bottom dishonesty in the immigration debate, dispensing with the falsehoods and talking candidly about how we got here and where we go now.
As the Senate's “Gang of Eight” gears up to unveil its much-anticipated plan for comprehensive immigration reform, it's time to confront the whoppers that Americans tell themselves about immigration and immigrants.
Here are the top 10:
• All Latinos condone illegal immigration and want an open border. Public opinion surveys, including a 2012 report by the Pew Hispanic Center, have consistently found that nearly half of Latinos think the way to handle illegal immigration is through increased border security, either as a stand-alone strategy or together with a pathway to citizenship for the immigrants.
• Deportation is the end of the road, and so once an illegal immigrant is removed, he never comes back. I know a woman who was deported one week, and back home with her kids the next. And that's nothing. T.J. Bonner, a former head of the Border Patrol agents' union, likes to tell a story about how he arrested the same guy three times in one eight-hour shift.
• Americans don't want to keep out legal immigrants, only those here illegally. Actually, some want to keep out both. There are lawmakers who favor a moratorium on all immigration, and some of the country's leading anti-immigrant advocacy groups make clear in their mission statements that they want to end illegal immigration but also limit legal immigration.
• This isn't about race or racism. If that were true, it would be the first time in the more than 230-year history of the United States that Americans were able to have a colorblind discussion about setting immigration policy; inevitably it becomes about keeping out one group or another.
• The only reason the United States has so much illegal immigration is because U.S. employers don't pay high-enough wages to attract U.S. workers to do those jobs. In many cases, it's not the wages but the fact that Americans have, over the generations, moved away from the hard and dirty jobs now done by immigrants.