The pity of the immigration issue is that it is a sideshow distorted by rhetoric. Even if the current efforts at sealing the border, which most law-abiding Hispanic citizens applaud, are 100 percent successful, the surge in America’s Latino population is a done deal. That demographic genie is out of the bottle. That is the reality Americans of good will should embrace.
On the business side of the ledger, there are billions to be made in products geared for this enormous, emerging market. Our culture is already being heavily influenced by everyone from J.Lo to A-Rod to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to Taco Bell.
Our stressed military happily eyes this pool of patriotic potential recruits to fill its brave ranks exhausted by nearly a decade of continuous war fighting. Groups like the Boy Scouts and even NASCAR have vigorous out-reach programs to embrace these newcomers. This is a burgeoning, hard-working, family-values community that will also be the savior of Social Security, injecting new young blood into our otherwise aging work force.
As my Fox News colleague Karl Rove told Newsweek magazine following that disastrous (for Republicans) 2008 election, the GOP must support policy that “strengthens citizenship, grows our economy and keeps America a welcoming nation.”
Like Martin Luther King Jr. and more recently Glenn beck, I also have a dream: that President Obama doubles down on history, and completes the arc between himself and Abraham Lincoln. The nation’s first black (and brown) president can issue his own Emancipation Proclamation for this age. By threatening what I’m about to suggest, the president could force Congress either to act rationally or be relegated to the scrap heap of history.
What he could do is announce that if the legislative branch fails to pass meaningful immigration reform by a certain date, as every president has done from the founding of the Republic, and as the Constitution specifically empowers him to do, Mr. Obama can pardon the illegal immigrants, grant that general amnesty, and say to the entire world that those immigrants who are here are absolved of any crime of status.
This move is not the nightmare some fear because there are important qualifications:
they are free to stay here, so long as they are not convicted or indicted criminals, and otherwise qualify for legal residence. All candidates for amnesty must register, and be fingerprinted, photographed and comply with any other reasonable prerequisites, like comprehensive background checks, waiting lists and fines. Not as citizens initially, but as holders of a valid, renewable visa, the specifics of which can be defined over time by federal authorities. They would begin a long road to citizenship, but in the meantime live free from the fear of lawmen, vigilantes or the talk radio mob.
As it has always done, our country will change these recent arrivals more than they change America, but we will be -- indeed, we already are -- richer for their presence in our society, and our bastion of liberty would be true to its welcoming tradition.
Part one of Geraldo Rivera's column "Latino Rising" outlines the profound demographic change represented by growth of the Hispanic population. Read ithere.
Geraldo Rivera is a columnist for Fox News Latino.