The Wall Street Journal probably went to press last night too soon to react to the Bush immigration address. Instead it ran this fine editorial, “Reagan on Immigration.” I can’t recommend it enough, especially to those who today are fulminating against Bush, turning him off minutes into his speech, shutting off debate, burying their heads in the desert sand instead of squarely facing our long, complicated history with labor streaming up from the south in response to our own economic demands and enriching our nation’ economy as a result.
Perfection is the enemy of the good — we’re not going to settle decades of history via presidential fiat. Conservatives used to be the first to know that life is unfair — and it is unfair whether you’re a fugitive low-wage laborer in a foreign environment risking deportation at a moment’s notice or whether you’re the same laborer who might luck into permanent resident status after years on the denigrated margins. Is it really a problem if sometimes the last shall be first?
And can anyone really disagree with this Bush observation, “… yet, we must remember that the vast majority of illegal immigrants are decent people who work hard, support their families, practice their faith, and lead responsible lives”? He also noted the basic conundrum: “They are a part of American life — but they are beyond the reach and protection of American law.” To change the latter part will require recognition of the first. They are a part of American life, and as such they will have to become Americans. I see no other alternative.
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