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How is it that we manage to do everything wrong on the immigration front?



I wonder if Janet Napolitano is experiencing "déjà vu all over again," in the words of renowned American orator Yogi Berra. Eight years ago, exasperated with symbolic congressional grandstanding on border security and inaction on anything that could be considered a solution to the problem of illegal immigration, then-Arizona Gov. Janet famously quipped, "Show me a 50-foot wall and I'll show you a 51-foot ladder."

If you've been following the convoluted saga of immigration reform involving the current cast of congressional cranks, you might be wondering, too. There's an 800-page proposal on the table that's generated a million pages of ink and more than a few migraines.

As Tim Vanderpool's coverage over the past couple of weeks indicates, despite a "pathway to citizenship" that's more like an obstacle course through a burning kerosene moat full of robot crocodiles, there's some good stuff in there that might actually make our immigration system more efficient and humane, while greatly reducing the incentives for people to risk their lives marching across the desert.

And, there's more of the same old "border security" song and dance, which seems pretty ironic and silly to me, since immigration and border security shouldn't really have much to do with one another. Nearly half of the undocumented workers in this country never crossed the southern border. In fact, they didn't illegally cross any border—they came here legally and stayed after their time was up. Moreover, the vast majority poses no threat to anyone, and therefore should not engender insecurity in any rational, informed person.

Alas, in the fairy-tale snow globe of America—being increasingly impoverished of rational, informed persons, especially in the halls of Congress—border security and immigration are now hopelessly entangled, thanks to a concerted strategy that pushed a certain class of migrants (you know, the ones from the south, with brown skin) out into the hinterlands while doing absolutely nothing to change the economic dynamics that drive their migration.

Indeed, it was that punitive strategy that largely created the border security problem, at least in the way border zealots John McCain and Jeff Flake define it. Decades of border militarization and hundreds of billions of tax dollars failed to prevent desperate people from trudging through our deserts and canyons, but did hand trafficking organizations that pose a real threat a major new source of income, and did succeed in defiling and destroying thousands of acres of our own backyard, which has been littered and scarred by both cat and mouse.

In the marble canyons of Washington, D.C., where inertia rules and money talks out of both sides of its mouth, larding up a potential solution with more of the same destructive and wasteful nonsolutions is accepted without question as a necessary rite of passage.

This would be really funny if it didn't profoundly jeopardize the very people and places it's supposed to protect. Waiving laws in the border region that protect the health and well-being of all Americans for the express purpose of protecting those of us who live in the border region while denying us the protections provided by those laws sounds like the sort of tortured logic Yogi would come up with.

It gets worse. Now that ex-Gov. Janet is Homeland Security secretary, she might actually be forced to build that 50-foot wall, or something equally abominable. The current proposal elevates barrier infrastructure above other strategies and commits billions more dollars to an inflated version of the same destructive, non-ladder-proof stroke of genius that she ridiculed years ago.

Well here's some realpolitik you'll never hear in a D.C. press conference. There's only one reason Republicans are even at this table: After years of vicious fear-mongering and demonization of Mexican migrants, they lost more than 70 percent of the Latino vote in last year's presidential election. Unchecked, this trend makes it increasingly difficult for them to hold power. Yet, incredibly, Democrats and many of their allies continue to allow Republicans to set the parameters of debate.

I've got better ideas. First, pass an immigration reform package—without all the border security bullshit—that acknowledges the huge contributions of undocumented labor to our economy and manages it in an orderly fashion.

Second, legalize the drugs that create so much of the real border security threat. Absent the vast illicit profits and chaos that result directly from our current insane policies, our borderlands could revert from punctured political football back to their true nature—a peaceful, diverse and uniquely beautiful place that we call home.

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