By Inga Barks
For the 20 years I've been in radio there are two sure-fire ways to get the talk phones lit up. One of them is the subject of immigration. Comments run the gamut, from calls for amnesty for those illegally here, to full-on deportation, to everything in between. Since the recent terror attack at the Boston Marathon there has even been discussion of the need to address problems with even our legal immigration policies.
I was in Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago at a think-tank event on the subject of immigration when a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators known as the "Gang of Eight" presented the latest immigration reform bill, and they immediately tried to start selling it to the public. Even Florida Sen. and Republican darling Marco Rubio worked the room at my event. He wasn't popular that day.
At the capital there were gatherings of people on either side of the issue calling for changes to our current immigration policy. Back home in Bakersfield, Mayor Harvey Hall joined an event calling for immigration reform. Rep. Steve King (R- Iowa) met with victims of crime at the hands of illegal immigrants. I met with sheriffs and politicians and ranch owners who live on our borders. One rancher I met said that in one year a few hundred thousand people were caught by border agents on his land.
But now, three weeks later, it looks like this most recent bill is dead in the water and the song remains the same. I mean, seriously, despite the well-meaning rallies and the lobbyists in the halls, the song really does remain the same.
Those who favored the bill, I would guess, hadn't read it but were just excited about the idea of a "path to citizenship." Even if the bill didn't offer a path to citizenship all it has to do is have those words in the title and people go nuts.
For those of us who opposed it (and yes, I read it) there were many, many, many problems, the biggest being a lack of border security. If we don't find a way to better tighten our borders, then we are simply repeating our mistakes of the past. In the 1980s President Reagan signed a bill giving amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. But he failed to get the border security he was promised. All it brought was millions more flooding into the country illegally.
After my return from D.C., I asked some valley congressmen their opinions on immigration reform. Here's what I got:
"I am a long-standing supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. It's imperative that we adopt reform that both secures the border and ends the unacceptable status quo in which millions of people are living and working in the shadows." -- Rep. Devin Nunes (R, Tulare)
"We are a proud nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. We must consider both principles when we work to solve our broken immigration system. Enforcement and border security must be addressed first as we look to find real long-term solutions that are clear, concise, understandable and enforceable." -- Rep Kevin McCarthy (R, Bakersfield)
"As the son of immigrants, the issue of immigration reform is very important to me. I have witnessed first-hand how complicated and drawn out the process is, and I believe our current system is in serious need of reform.
"The topic of immigration reform has been ignored for many years now, and I applaud the groups of members in the House of Representatives and the Senate for reaching out across the aisle and moving this discussion forward. However, there is still much work to be done.
"I have been asked by the bipartisan group of members in the House of Representatives to draft legislation regarding agriculture to be included in the comprehensive immigration reform package. I look forward to hearing from my constituents as I continue to work with my colleagues to find a common-sense and realistic solution for our country." -- Rep. David Valadao (R, Hanford)
See why I say the song remains the same? While there is no doubt that these statements are sincere -- and I'm sure you join me in wishing them all luck -- I'll eat the newspaper if anything meaningful is passed.
Those who want amnesty will never budge. Those who think everything short of deportation is amnesty will never budge. Agricultural interests, those of law enforcement, health care concerns, issues of assimilation and border security -- there are so many passionate interests and lobbyists for those interests. And so many of them are in conflict with each other. I just don't see it.
But if it happens, I'll eat the paper. With salsa.
Inga Barks, who hosts talk shows on KNZR AM 1560 and KMJ AM 580, is one of three community columnists whose work appears here every Saturday. You can email her at email@example.com. These are Barks' opinions, not necessarily The Californian's.