Time: Friend or Foe for Immigration Reform?

mexican repatriation

Historians estimate that during the Great Depression’s “Mexican Repatriation” approximately 60% of those deported were U.S. citizens, and most of the rest were here legally. (1936 photo by Dorothea Lange)

A hardwired instinct is to turn inwards in times of crisis.  In the case of the recent Boston bombings, we see our natural emotional reactions at work – Americans are fearful, Americans are turning inward, and Americans are seeking to keep strangers out.

Put it all together and immigration reform looks more and more difficult.

Immigrants are no strangers to being the scapegoats of the visceral reactions that come in times of crisis.  The last 100 years has seen several instances of Americans turning inward and not only shunning but scapegoating immigrants.

To begin, there was the internment of German and Japanese immigrants during the World Wars.  Then, during the Great Depression there were the roundups and mass deportations of Mexican immigrants and citizens.  And most recently there is the racial profiling and harassment Arab-Americans have been subject to.

So in the current political context, it is perfectly normal to see why there are rumblings to seal up the borders and halt immigration.  But while the response to turn away from the immigrant may be a natural response it’s not a rational response.  The most rational response to the domestic terror attack is to push forward immigration reform—policy that makes us safer by better tracking those immigrants who are here and who are seeking to enter.

But the problem is that this type of big picture or reasoned thinking takes time to kick in.  In the wake of a crisis, emotions are in the driver’s seat.  Rational and level-headed thinking lags a bit behind the visceral.

Herein lies the rub.  In order for the rational part of our thinking to kick in we need time.  With regards to the immigration discussion, time would allow folks to see that not going through with an immigration reform makes us less safe.  However, too much time is a thief of momentum.  And immigration reform, as any type of complex legislation, lives and dies on momentum.

What we have is a Catch-22.  Time allows cooler heads to prevail.  In the case of immigration reform that means seeing the likes of Rand Paul understand that pressing “pause” on immigration reform is counterproductive to our national security.  But time also allows for momentum to fizzle.

The question in moving forward with immigration reform is whether to proceed more slowly or charge ahead.  Neither strategy is ideal, but the charging ahead is the lesser of two evils.

If immigration reform is placed on the back burner, even for a couple of weeks, it will die.

There is only so much attention that law makers can give to any one area before their attention gets pulled elsewhere.  Also, if lawmakers do not pass immigration reform before summer recess the emotional voices of those that think that immigration makes us less safe could overpower the debate.  The last thing immigration reform needs is the health care town hall meetings from 2009.

victoria defrancesco sotoTime usually heals all.  But in the case of immigration reform time turns out being more of a foe than a friend.  To see immigration reform become a reality the Gang of Eight, the White House, and immigration advocates must charge forward with their reasoned arguments highlighting the greater good of immigration reform.

Now more than ever time is of the essence.

Victoria Defrancesco Soto

Friday, 27 May 2013


  1. says

    Why is Soto so interested in a handful of Mexicans getting U.S. citizenship, while 110+ million more are left in the failed nation of Mexico permanently? Crossing the U.S.-Mexico border from north to south is like traveling from the First to the Third World. Why? Because there should be no border, because Mexico should be part of the U.S., allowing it to be developed to the same level. All the fury about 11 million is a waste in comparison. Only I have a 7-step bipartisan plan to incorporate Mexico with the consent of its people. Read my Megamerge Dissolution Solution Blog and help spread the real immigration reform plan instead of wasting valuable time on non-solutions like Congress is proposing now.

  2. hatty wood says

    My hope is a simple one. I hope any new law will allow those who have been selected to enter America to do so under what ever the law is at the time. I also hope those who do not meet the conditions of the law, are prevented from entering America by unlawful means. America has the right to refuse anyone it judges to not fit the conditions to enter America. Some of the countries in Europe where I lived would shoot people leaving or entering the country without permission.

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