Follow @MarlenGarcia777U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth once said she would be “fine” with a wall on the border with Mexico “as long as we have comprehensive immigration reform.”
The remark came two years ago in an interview comedian Stephen Colbert conducted with the Illinois Democrat on “The Colbert Report.”
Supporters of incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, whom Duckworth is trying to unseat, resurrected it recently in a lame attempt to align Duckworth with the rhetoric of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Trump is steadfast about building a wall if elected but might be changing his mind about deporting all undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., according to his comments this week.
Colbert’s questions had a tongue-in-cheek ring to them. He followed his question about a wall by saying he wanted one along with a moat filled with flames and fireproof alligators. At the time, the concept of building a wall along the entire stretch of the border seemed far-fetched, especially since the walls built under President George W. Bush were considered a failure.
For me, the interview had the opposite effect Kirk supporters wanted: Duckworth impressed because she conveyed a willingness to compromise if Republicans would negotiate with Democrats on comprehensive immigration reform in the House to put 11 million undocumented immigrants on course for legal residency and eventual citizenship. The Senate had passed a bipartisan bill on immigration reform a year earlier, with a yes vote from Kirk.
That Senate bill called for increased security on the border before legalization of immigrants could begin.
Duckworth, like Kirk, favors increased security. You don’t have to advocate for a wall to show support for bulking up enforcement. That gets lost when GOP hardliners malign attempts to reform immigration.
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, a leader in the push for immigration reform, also wants additional enforcement. He supports a mandatory employment verification system, he told me last fall. A current system in use, E-Verify, is not mandated for all companies.
Gutierrez wants meaningful penalties for companies that routinely hire undocumented immigrants. Businesses with such hiring practices might as well hang welcome signs at the border and at international airport terminals.
Gutierrez conceded his desire for oversight of companies’ hiring didn’t sound pro-immigrant. “But if I’m going to get a lot of those undocumented [legalized], I’m also going to have to be responsive to the future,” he said. His remarks came in response to a question about discouraging future waves of illegal crossings and visa violations once immigration reform is passed.
As long as there are jobs awaiting them in the U.S., immigrants will continue crossing the border or staying beyond their visa expiration dates. Gutierrez wants to cut off incentive to come.
A wall will not do because the complexities of immigration go way beyond that. It’s hard to tell if Trump gets it.
Trump suggested this week that he would be OK if some undocumented immigrants who have been here a long time — 20 years — got legal status if they pay outstanding taxes.
Generally, Trump’s views on women, immigrants and Muslims have skewed so extreme that Kirk has distanced himself from his fellow Republican. Trump needs to center himself after pandering to the far right.
Like Kirk’s camp, he comes off a little desperate.