Finley: Deportation threat should focus Congress on reform

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

President Donald Trump didn't carry out his threat to spend last weekend sweeping up "millions" of undocumented immigrants for deportation, and now his feint is being written off as yet another example of presidential twitter rashness.

These migrants crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas.

Trump says he backed down at the request of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and will give her two weeks to rally Democrats to provide some relief to the nation's beleaguered southern border. If Democrats don't, he says, he'll let the ousters begin.

She won't, and he won't. But both should do something, and preferably together.

Democrats will make a big show this week of restoring DACA protections to the so-called Dreamers, those immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children. They know it will go nowhere as a stand-alone measure. They're posturing.

So is the president, whose base clings to the delusion that it's possible to root out 12 million immigrants living in this country illegally and send them packing.

Facing reality is a good place to start a serious effort at immigration reform.

For Democrats, that means acknowledging that what's happening on the border is indeed an emergency, and not a crisis of Trump's imagination. Border agents are apprehending more than 100,000 illegal crossers a month. 

Democrats want to make the discussion all about family separation. But convoys from Central America have overwhelmed the infrastructure at the border. We aren't sure who's getting in, and whether the "families" are real or fake. It's not a rational response to assume they all have legitimate claims, swing open the door and let them in. 

For Republicans, the consequence of decades of resistance to sound immigration policy is that the number of undocumented immigrants living here is now greater than the population of Michigan.

Aside from the physical challenge of finding them, arresting them and deporting them, it would also sink the economy to remove that many workers/taxpayers/consumers.

The solution has been sitting in front of both parties for years waiting to be embraced.

Compromise. Give Republicans the resources they want to secure the border. That's not a nefarious ambition. Protecting the integrity of our borders is the first step toward rational immigration reform. 

Address as well the immediate crisis of the South American convoys. Sen. Lindsey Graham's proposal to place clearing offices in the home countries of the asylum seekers is worth exploring. Decide the merits of their claims before they make the arduous journey to the United States.

Fix the rules to allow those who show up here anyway to be sent back home, rather than giving them a court date and releasing them into this country. Most never return for the asylum hearings and add to the swelling population of undocumented residents.

In return, restore the DACA protections and provide a path to citizenship for undocumented residents. They're here, and they're going to stay here. That's a fact. Accept it, and bring this hidden population into the sunshine.

Once the border is secured and the undocumented immigrants are accounted for, a more orderly process can be established for bringing in the immigrants an expanding economy needs.

This shouldn't be such a hard nut for Congress and the president to crack.