The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Cynthia Tucker shows why she won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in her Sunday op-ed, “Democrats must lead way on immigration.” Any Dems thinking about going all wobbly on the issue should first give Tucker’s eloquent essay a read. Tucker gives the GOP a richly-deserved blistering for their nativist position on immigration and adds:
…here’s some counterintuitive advice for the Democratic ranks: Don’t hedge. Lead. Do the right thing. Come out clearly and forcefully for putting illegal immigrants already in the country on a path to citizenship. This is no time to trim or triangulate. Show some spine. America is ready for reasoned leadership on this issue.
…So let the GOP be the party of fear and division. Democrats ought to stand for something else. The modern Democratic Party also made its choice in the 1960s, choosing hope over fear, tolerance over division and the beloved community over bigotry.
…This is no time for Democrats to turn their backs on that heritage. America is too generous and compassionate to expel millions of productive and otherwise law-abiding people. The nation has taken advantage of their labor for decades, and it would be inhumane (and outrageously expensive) to round them up and send them back.
Tucker suggests a reasonable alternative:
But Americans also want to be assured that this is the last time a broad legalization option is offered to illegal immigrants. Democrats ought to make it clear that they’ll enforce the borders and crack down on employers who hire illegally, a cheaper and more effective strategy for addressing the problem than building fences. After a few CEOs have done the perp walk for illegal hiring, they’ll stop offering jobs to those without proper documents. And when word gets across the border that U.S. companies have stopped hiring, those laborers will stop coming. They come for jobs, after all, not jihad.
This is a win-win platform. Not only is it wise and honorable, calling on the highest ideals of a nation of immigrants, it can also produce victories at the ballot box. Last week, Virginia Democrats made gains in state and local elections even though the state has been embroiled in fiery debate over illegal immigration. As an analysis by the Washington Post concluded, voting trends didn’t benefit “those who campaigned the loudest for tough sanctions against illegal immigrants.”
Let Republicans take the low road. It doesn’t end in a place the rest of the country wants to go.
This debate is just getting started, and Tucker’s challenge merits consideration.