Time to overhaul immigration system
(The Free Press, Mankato, Minn.)
Nothing says immigration reform like resounding political clout wielded by Hispanic voters.
After decades of avoiding serious immigration reform in favor of pitched political fighting, a bipartisan group of senators on Monday released a set of principles for a sweeping overhaul of the immigration system, including a pathway to U.S. citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants and progress in securing the borders and ensuring that foreigners leave the country when their visas expire.
Wisely, the Senate agreement tackles the issue with a comprehensive approach, rather than trying to pass smaller pieces of legislation that would invariably produce a lesser outcome.
For Democrats — and most Hispanics — the agreement seeks legislation that will give those here illegally a way to become U.S. citizens. For the GOP, the agreement only allows for that if there is demonstrated progress on better securing the borders and making sure visitors leave when their visas expire.
A serious immigration bill should not have taken this long to craft, but for political reasons it was delayed — and for political reasons it’s now being done.
President Obama and Democrats have always had the benefit of being on the “right side” of immigration reform when it cam to the Hispanic vote.
But despite his public support for reform, Obama never really made a concerted push. He seemed content to simply voice support, get the Hispanic vote and watch his GOP opponents twist in the wind for opposing most reform.
And the GOP obliged. Arizona’s anti-Hispanic antics, some prominent GOP leaders calling to take away birthright citizenship and a southern conservative sheriff who is waging war against illegal immigrants have all helped cement the image of an uncaring and maybe racist Republican party.
Fortunately, there have always been respected GOP leaders trying to lead the party toward reasonable immigration policy, including Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain.
McCain’s view finally gained dominance thanks to the results of the last elections in which Hispanics rejected the GOP — Hispanics the party believe rightly fit with the GOP’s conservative ideology. At the same time, public opinion has firmly shifted toward immigration reform that includes a path for citizenship along with stronger border security.
The agreement in the Senate doesn’t mean that immigration reform is a done deal. To the contrary, there will be plenty of contention as legislation moves through Congress.
But with the pressure strong for Congress to act, we have our best chance at finally getting comprehensive reform that will make things better for America and for those hoping to come here.
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Law won't stop the gun violence
(The News Courier, Athens, Ala.)
President Barack Obama recently signed off on 23 executive orders he believes will curb gun violence in America.
He did so in the presence of young school children who the president said had written letters asking for tougher gun laws. It was a touching gesture, considering many of the children looked as innocent as those gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14.
Before the ink was dry, however, the National Rifle Association claimed Obama’s executive orders and a $500 million proposal sent to Congress for approval would infringe on the Second Amendment rights of Americans.
Obama’s executive orders included nominating B. Todd Jones to head the ATF, which has been without a permanent director since 2006. Other steps included requiring federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations, ordering a review of safety standards for gun locks and gun safes and ordering tougher penalties for people who lie on background checks.
The proposal he sent to Congress includes a ban on armor-piercing ammunition by civilians, stiffer penalties for gun trafficking and training first responders on how to respond to shootings.
None of the orders signed by the president, nor the proposal he sent to Congress, calls for the government to come and confiscate the guns of millions of law-abiding Americans. But still, law-abiding gun owners are worried, and the worry seems to be largely unwarranted.
It was inevitable, however, that after mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., a hard and fast look would be taken at the nation’s gun laws. It’s true that it was a knee-jerk reaction, but one that may be warranted to some degree.
On the other hand, there is no simple solution to the problem. Gun-rights advocates argue that it’s the shooter, not the gun, who are responsible for the carnage. And they’re right. James Holmes and Adam Lanza were both mentally unstable when they pulled their respective triggers. Perhaps if they had gotten the mental health help they desperately needed, 38 people would be alive today.
Gun control advocates believe that Holmes and Lanza were able to kill and maim so many because they employed guns that used high-capacity magazines. It’s a fair argument. Had they used only handguns or shotguns, perhaps the shooter may have been disarmed between reloading.
To put it mildly, the gun debate is not new. Guns have been used to fight wars and keep the peace. They are a means of protection, recreation and sport. They helped “tame the west,” but also wiped out an untold numbers of our true “founding fathers” — the Native Americans.
A gun under the bed or in a bedside drawer offers a sense of protection to a homeowner. They are often the first line of defense for a police officer in harm’s way.
Guns are also used to rob, intimidate and murder. They’ve killed mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, sons and daughters. They’ve silenced political leaders, activists and heads of state.
But, above all else, gun ownership is one of our guaranteed freedoms as Americans. It’s a right given to us by men who were unfamiliar with anything other than black-powder muskets and flint-lock pistols. We wonder how the authors of our Constitution would have felt about AK-47s and AR-15s.
The fact of the matter is, guns —big and small — are here to stay. They are an ingrained part of our culture. They were here before President Obama took office, and they will be here long after his presidency is over.
While we don’t believe the president’s actions represent an effort to disarm law-abiding Americans, we believe that no federal legislation will put an end to the threat of violence in every American community.
The government may believe that changing the law will keep us safer, but it’s going to take changing evil hearts and mentally ill minds to truly protect us. And that, sadly, may be an impossibility.