Democrats should take 'yes' for an answer on immigration reform

The obstruction by Democrats of immigration reform legislation only reinforces the narrative of their opponents on the right: Progressives are not interested in real immigration solutions, only in scoring political points on the issue as they campaign to try to win House and Senate majorities in the November elections.

Republicans in Congress remain divided on immigration reform legislation, and now members of the House and Senate have left Washington for their Fourth of July recess. Democrats in Congress are unwilling to join with Republicans to pass legislation that would be a step forward, even though it doesn’t go as far as Democrats would like in some areas and goes too far in others.

Both parties needs to make compromises. As the old saying goes: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Just because all sides can’t agree on everything involving immigration reform doesn’t mean they shouldn’t agree on anything.

In recent weeks, the American people have been as loud and as pointed as I’ve ever heard demanding our government stop separating immigrant parents and children at our southern border. I was also very public in my rejection of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, calling it un-Christian and un-American.

As a pastor, I likewise spoke out against Attorney General Jeff Session’s misguided use of Romans 13 to reinforce U.S. immigration policy. After all, this was the same Bible passage that was once used to defend slavery by plantation owners in the South.

As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail in 1963: “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

Thankfully, a mass display of civil disobedience was not necessary on the immigrant family separation policy, as the volume and intensity of the American people’s collective voice quickly resulted in a rare reversal by President Trump. He issued an executive order designed to effectively end the policy of separating children from their illegal immigrant parents at the border.

In addition, a U.S. District Court judge in California issued an order this week ending the separation of illegal immigrant parents from their children and requiring that separated families be united with 30 days when the children are 5 or older, and within 14 days when the children are younger.

The president’s executive order and the judge’s order are clear wins for those immigrant children and their families directly affected by the president’s “zero-tolerance” policy for illegal immigration, but the orders are also a clear victories for the Democratic Party more generally.

But despite this victory, it seems Democratic and progressive outrage over family separations has only grown more vitriolic and high-profile. The result has been a complete lack of civility in our public discourse, casting a longer and darker shadow over the dimming prospect of real immigration reform.

First there was the very powerful Time Magazine cover depicting the president looking down upon a crying toddler who had presumably been separated from her parents. I admit to personally being very moved by this cover when I first saw it. Unfortunately, the Honduran girl was actually taken to the border by her mother, who had left her husband and three other children in the middle of the night.

In a twist of irony, the mother also falsely claimed asylum. As her husband confirmed to The Washington Post, she was not fleeing violence, she was seeking economic opportunity.

Unfortunately, Time Magazine refused to acknowledge its cover was predicated upon a falsehood, stating defiantly: “The June 12 photograph of the 2-year-old Honduran girl became the most visible symbol of the ongoing immigration debate in America for a reason: Under the policy enforced by the administration, prior to its reversal this week, those who crossed the border illegally were criminally prosecuted, which in turn resulted in the separation of children and parents. Our cover and our reporting capture the stakes of this moment.”

There was also the egregious and very counterproductive call by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., to harass and harangue Trump administration officials wherever and whenever they are spotted in public spaces. Her actions followed the disgraceful treatment of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was confronted and spit on by protesters at a movie theater.

Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen was similarly accosted by protesters as she dined at a popular Mexican restaurant (admittedly a bad choice of cuisine, for obvious reasons), and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Virginia by the restaurant’s owner.

Other examples of “protests” that would have been loudly condemned in previous eras of American politics include the disclosure of presidential adviser Stephen Miller’s personal phone number.  And a New Yorker magazine fact checker wrongly accused an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent – wounded Marine combat veteran and amputee Justin Gaertner – of wearing a Nazi tattoo, when the tattoo was actually from his Marine unit in Afghanistan.

On top of this, former “Sex and the City” star and current candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor in New York Cynthia Nixon calling ICE a terrorist organization.

People are understandably upset by what was taking place at the border. I am very much on the record sharing their outrage. But unlike many others who claim to be advocating on behalf of immigrant children, I have accepted the president’s actions as a suitable course correction. I am now pressing Congress to go the full way by passing comprehensive immigration reform once and for all.

This is not the first time in recent memory that Democrats have failed to take “yes” for an answer to our immigration crisis.

Back in January, President Trump offered a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million young people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents as children. In exchange, the president wanted funding for a border wall, an end to the visa lottery for immigrants, and an end to chain migration. I know some of these provisions are distasteful and even offensive to many. Regardless, I challenge Democrats in Congress to negotiate until they get a compromise they can accept.

I am ready today, as I was back in January, to accept victory and move forward with protecting the futures of our immigrant children and their families.

To my Democratic friends in Congress, it’s time to prove your political opponents wrong – stop obstructing worthwhile legislation and take “yes” for answer on immigration. When you do, illegal immigrants will be better off, America will be better off, and Hispanic Americans like me will celebrate your political courage as our nation heads toward the Nov. 6 midterm elections.