Dream on, new­est Amer­i­cans

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - Paul Greenberg

If the lat­est twist in the de­bate over Amer­i­can im­mi­gra­tion sounds fa­mil­iar, maybe that’s be­cause it is. Or cer­tainly should be by now. This de­bate has been go­ing on since the Pil­grims landed at Ply­mouth Rock and pro­ceeded to dis­turb the al­ready un­easy bal­ance of the con­ti­nent’s pop­u­la­tion.

Now we’re told that the coun­try’s deal­maker-in-chief is re­vers­ing course once again and is ready to open a path to cit­i­zen­ship for some 1.8 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented young im­mi­grants. These dream­ers were brought to these shores as chil­dren too young to know ex­actly what was go­ing on. But now they’re to be al­lowed to take the first steps to­ward full-fledged cit­i­zen­ship and see their decades-old dream ful­filled. O happy day! Kind of. Let’s wait and see how it all works out, if it ever does.

Tom Cot­ton, who is Arkansas’ ju­nior se­na­tor but al­ready a senior states­man, is fall­ing in step with the pres­i­dent af­ter hav­ing op­posed let­ting more mi­grants into the coun­try be­cause they al­ready have fam­ily here. Now he says the “pres­i­dent’s frame­work is gen­er­ous and hu­mane, while also be­ing re­spon­si­ble.

It pro­tects those el­i­gi­ble for DACA [De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals], who are here through no fault of their own. But it also will pre­vent us from end­ing up back here in five years by se­cur­ing the bor­der and putting an end to ex­tended-fam­ily chain mi­gra­tion. The pres­i­dent’s will­ing­ness to grand­fa­ther ev­ery­one in the cur­rent im­mi­grant back­log also shows he’s se­ri­ous about reach­ing a bi­par­ti­san so­lu­tion.”

There’s some­thing in this mys­tery pack­age for ev­ery­one in gen­eral to cel­e­brate, which means that, when this bag full of good­ies fi­nally un­wraps, in­clud­ing all the parts that con­tra­dict each other, there may be noth­ing spe­cific to cel­e­brate. It’s like a set of Rus­sian nest­ing dolls. Open one doll to find an­other smaller one within. Till you open the fi­nal doll and there’s noth­ing in­side.

There’s a phrase for de­sign­ing such a po­lit­i­cal grab bag out of the most di­verse el­e­ments: It’s called be­ing all things to all peo­ple. At last re­versible re­port, the pres­i­dent’s lat­est turn­around was get­ting rave re­views all around, ex­cept from mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion who seem to live only to op­pose. For even the widest net—es­pe­cially the widest of nets—may be too loose to cap­ture the big­gest of fish, and when raised may come up full of sea­weed and gen­eral de­tri­tus. Wanna bet that, five years from now, the coun­try will find it­self on the same square of this fa­mil­iar board game, not hav­ing passed Go, not hav­ing re­solved any of the fun­da­men­tal ques­tions of im­mi­gra­tion and ready for an­other roll of the dice?

The odds are good that this play will just con­tinue with a new cast of char­ac­ters play­ing the same roles. And so this reper­tory theater will re­vive the same old pro­duc­tion. There’ll be no need to change any of the props. A ded­i­cated the­ater­goer could pre­dict the stan­dard re­views from the stan­dard crit­ics by their past judg­ments.

The more this per­for­mance changes, the more it stays the same. There are no sur­prises, only rep­e­ti­tions. The pres­sure groups have all got their lines down pat by now. All they need do is pull one of last year’s press re­leases off the shelf and un­roll it. Even those who say they’re re­serv­ing judg­ment don’t, but in­stead just put out an­other fillin-the-blanks state­ment they might as well have had around for ages.

“We can­not cel­e­brate this an­nounce­ment as a vic­tory,” the spoil­sports with the Arkansas United Com­mu­nity Coali­tion in­tone, “be­cause there is still an up­hill bat­tle ahead in Con­gress. And ul­ti­mately we will re­main vig­i­lant and await the de­tails of what the White House sends to the Se­nate on Mon­day to en­sure that no money goes to en­hanc­ing the de­por­ta­tion ma­chin­ery of Dream­ers and their fam­i­lies, and that Dream­ers do not be­come sec­ond class ci­ti­zens through this process or be forced to make im­pos­si­ble choices be­tween their fu­ture or that of their fam­i­lies.”

So stay tuned, same time, same sta­tion, same script five years from now. Tune in then, Gen­tle Reader, if you can stand to.

Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer Prize-win­ning editorial writer and colum­nist for the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette.

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