(If I understand Will's note -- and I think I do -- then the below post is from Ray McMurray's blog --- so the "I" used throughout is McMurray. Feel free to discuss in the comments below. - promoted by Phillip Martin)
(Since there has been a call for positive posts about Mr. McMurrey, I've decided to cross-post some of the policy papers/columns that we've already posted on our campaign blog. The one that follows can be found here. --William Pate)
The subject of immigration is hot in the 2008 election, but immigration in the Americas is older than the United States itself. We should keep the emotion over this issue in perspective by understanding that the entire history of the Americas has been one of mass human migration. Moreover, it should be understood that the truth needs to be told to the American public. It appears both parties have a tendency to shade the truth, and I believe there is confusion where there should not be.
To begin with, we must admit that regarding immigration there are really two issues:
1. What do we do with those here?
2. What do we do in the future to control the border?
Let me first say that I have some experience with this issue, and my life experiences prepare me to deal with immigration and border issues. After graduation from college, I did what LBJ did - taught public school in south Texas. I lived on the Texas-Mexico border in Eagle Pass for seven years. I taught in a Title 1 school and lived in a colonia. I also married a local girl who is the daughter of migrant farm workers. My wife was born in an Oregon migrant camp while her parents did seasonal agricultural work picking sugar beets. The year was 1965. And her father's parents had been coming to the U.S. prior to that. Given my history, I have a very good understanding of border life and the complexities of the immigration issue.
I think Democrats are reluctant to address this issue for fear of losing Latino votes. This is where my experience and leadership come into play. My family members are immigrants and my children Latino. I can speak honestly about these issues. Immigrants and Latino citizens are respectful of the laws and understand the need to control the borders, just like everyone else.
With regard to those that are now here, we must admit that we have failed to enforce the laws on the books regarding immigration. From properly funding the Border Patrol to cracking down on companies hiring illegal immigrants, we did not do our job. That is why it is frustrating to hear Republicans call immigrants "criminals." In fact, the real criminal behavior was for those in authority to not enforce the law so they could "sell out" to agribusiness and commercial farming interests by providing them the cheapest labor possible, mostly through the use of Latin American immigrants. Not to mention the direct effect that had on the ability of family farmers to compete in the marketplace, thus leading to the decline of family farms.
Those that are here came because we allowed them through our own intentional inaction. They sought a better life for themselves like all who come to this great nation. Their families are intertwined with this nation to such a degree that it would be inhumane to impose a forced removal where roots have been planted - doing so would result in another Trail of Tears. I favor a legal pathway to citizenship for those that are here, but automatic amnesty is not the solution. The pathway should come with a cost. But that cost should be fair and dignified.
In the future we should neutralize the term "illegal" by providing a legal and open immigration policy to this country for law-abiding people to live and work. Our Latino brothers and sisters to the south are our closest neighbors and deserve to have "favored nation" status when considering immigration quotas.
We need to create legal and favorable conditions with Latin American countries so law-abiding people can legally enter our nation under a taxpayer identification system so all workers are documented and paying taxes. Labor leaders need to be at the table to ensure the integrity of American jobs and economic opportunity for American workers.
There is a law enforcement and security issue to the border that is fundamentally different than 15 years ago. We must acknowledge that the drug trade and terrorism are real dangers that bolster the need to monitor our borders.
I believe that with current security issues, this nation does have a responsibility to know who is entering and exiting the nation, as does any sovereign nation. I also believe it is appropriate to substantially increase the funding and salaries for our Border Patrol so they may really do the job we ask them to do. Rather than funds being spent building a wall, we should invest in our immigration enforcement agencies.
The major component of this debate is that Americans believe their government is willing and able to protect American security, American labor and American justice. Republicans are wrong to attack immigrants as criminals while they turn a blind eye and do not enforce the laws on the books, selling out to commercial agribusiness. The real crime is the failure of the American government to secure the border.
In closing, while we do have problems dealing with immigration, my overall faith in the strength of diversity is strong and I believe in the end we will be a stronger and more competent nation. We can do better, and I am ready to provide leadership on this issue as your next U.S. Senator.