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Smart immigration policy needed

November 25, 2018

If Donald Trump had said this, it would have been dismissed as just another harsh comment on a sensitive topic — immigration. But the author of the following words last week was none other than Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent in 2016, someone who would never be called a racist or an immigrant-basher.

She said Europe needs to “get a handle” on reforming its immigration laws in order to fend off another reaction like Brexit.

“I admire the very generous and compassionate approaches that were taken, particularly by leaders like Angela Merkel,” she said. “(But) I think it is fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message ?• ‘We are not going to be able to continue to provide refuge and support’ (to new migrants) ?• because if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil” European voters.

Bingo. That’s the kind of common-sense approach to immigration that Republicans and Democrats in this country should be able to agree on. And in private, many of them do. Publicly, however, the story is different.

There are faint hopes that the coming split between a Democratic House and a Republican Senate could lead to some degree of cooperation, and that will be necessary to some basic things done. But it’s one thing to agree on a bill that affects Social Security or the military. We need both of those. It’s an entirely different matter to take on something controversial like immigration.

Democrats want nothing to do with Trump’s border wall — and they shouldn’t, because it’s an absurd and expensive approach to a complex problem. And it won’t even work.

Yet those same Democrats don’t seem to realize that Trump and Republicans are on to something when they say we can’t just passively accept caravans of poor people from Central America because that kind of open-door policy would eventually overwhelm us.

Granted, Trump says it in the harshest way, so it’s hard for reasonable people to get behind him. But it’s also hard to deny that the Central American migrants are fleeing poverty, not political persecution. Their situation is dire, but so is the predicament for millions of poor people in Africa and Asia.

If anything will break the stalemate in the next Congress, it would be a deal involving the so-called “Dreamers” and tighter entry requirements for new immigrants.

Even Trump has suggested he could accept the Dreamers, people who were brought here as children by their parents. They’ve lived in this country for years or decades, but they’re subject to deportation at any time — usually to countries they would never recognize. That’s just cruel.

In return, Democrats would be asked to support an immigration system weighted more toward merit, not family connections to previous immigrants. There are college graduates and entrepreneurs in other countries who want to come here. But all too often, they are crowded out by whoever can make it across the border, or put off by a process that doesn’t really value their potential contribution.

Something like this, with a tweak here or there, should be doable. Most voters probably wouldn’t object. Heck, they’d be stunned and ask for more cooperation on other issues.

We’ll find out soon. Maybe Trump will want another signing ceremony in the Oval Office. Maybe Speaker Nancy Pelosi can hold off the hardliners in her party who want to fight Trump on everything. Best of all, maybe voters in both parties will tell their representatives to get something — anything — done before the next election, and to start with this.

Thomas Taschinger, TTaschinger@BeaumontEnterprise.com, is the editorial page editor of The Beaumont Enterprise. Follow him on Twitter at @PoliticalTom

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