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RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.: Immigration solution requires honesty, nuance and common sense

Columnists should make people think. But we shouldn’t make policy. If you’re going to call the race, you can’t have a horse in it. Otherwise, it could be difficult to offer a fair assessment.

That might disappoint the reader who, in response to a recent column on the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, made a request. “Please do a story on proposed solutions to this massive problem,” he wrote. “All we hear is the politicians screaming from the rooftops with no answers.”

True. It is the job of politicians to make policy. Yet when politicians suggest solutions to problems such as the one on the border — where thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers are showing up daily — the results are often silly, simplistic or symbolic.

Case in point: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has transformed himself into a tough-talking drugstore cowboy in an attempt to claim the immigration issue as his own. Such a slab of red meat for the GOP base will come in handy if Abbott decides to vie for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Claiming that his state is undergoing an “invasion” — a slanderous claim given that immigrants are an unarmed flock that includes many women and children — Abbott recently sent the Texas National Guard to El Paso and had them put up barbed wire on the border.

Congratulations, governor. Your idea makes Donald Trump’s “big, beautiful wall” look sophisticated and high-tech.

Imagine traveling hundreds or thousands of miles with nothing but the clothes on your back because your country has been destroyed by violence, flood, hurricanes or corruption. Imagine making your way to the border and to the promise — across the river in El Paso — of a better tomorrow for you and your children. And when you get there, you find something as crude as barbed wire.

Would you turn back? Or would you search hardware stores in Juárez for a pair of wire cutters?

I understand that many Americans are real angry and real frustrated about the border. But let’s stay in the real world, shall we?

Recently, I was a guest on the national radio show hosted by Michael Medved. A friend for nearly 20 years, Medved is a compassionate and commonsense conservative who has long been a centrist on immigration. He’s not a fan of open borders or closed minds. We talked about the current situation, and the 11th-hour decision by Chief Justice John Roberts to block the lifting of Title 42 — a section of U.S. code that lets the government keep out migrants to stop the spread of disease — just before it was to be scrapped. My friend asked me what the U.S. government should do now.

As I said, I resist proposing solutions. That’s not my job. Because I’m independent, not beholden to either political party, I see the value of multiple perspectives. Still, my ideas are no better than anyone else’s. Besides, I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. My objective is to get people to think deeply about what they support or oppose — and why.

However, this time, given the severity of the crisis, I made an exception. Off the top of my head, I rattled off a six-point plan.

The Biden administration — and all Americans — need to:

1. Be honest, finally, about our dependence on immigrant labor (even the illegal kind) and stop advertising to the world that we’re hiring.

2. Decide whether America is a haven for refugees and legal immigrants. We pretend to be, but we often don’t live up to the billing.

3. Increase and upgrade border security by deploying 21st-century detection equipment and technology.

4. Welcome legal immigrants. With more than 334 million people, the United States takes in more than 1 million people annually. It could take 3 million, which would ease pressure at the border.

5. Send hundreds of immigration judges to the U.S.-Mexico border to hear asylum cases. These brave people have earned a fair hearing.

6. Legalize undocumented immigrants who live, work and pay taxes in the United States. Prioritize those who have been here for more than 10 years.

In a nutshell, we need to accept the reality that the vast majority of migrants and asylum-seekers don’t want to hurt this country. They just want to be part of it. They will make us better.

That’s fitting. After all, giving people like these a second chance is the reason this country exists.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is crimscribe@icloud.com. His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available through every podcast app.

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