The political scene in the U.S. has become so polarized, so unyielding. At the start of discussion of the budget deficit, one Congressman remarked that there was no room for compromise. “Your principles are your principles.”
In other words, compromise is just wrong–a betrayal of those who’d voted for someone who pledged that he’d stand firm no matter what. And this is the view is on issues which cry out for action, essential matters such as deficits and debt limits and government “entitlements” and health care and the overlap between them. photo by onemillion
Of course, other people’s principles are their principles too, so refusal to consider compromise is the path to protracted, unproductive posturing and deadlock. For many elected officials and members of the public, the question of undocumented (or illegal) immigrants is a matter of Unyielding Principle.
Two recent examples
In-state tuition at public colleges
Should states allow young illegal immigrants who want to go to public colleges and universities where they live pay in-state tuition rather than the far-more-expensive out-if-state tuition. This matter has been discussed in a great many states, including Maryland.
State-provided health care?
This issue has come up in Vermont during discusion of legislation to provide a single-payer health care system, that is “a health care “exchange” or marketplace in keeping with the federal health care law passed last year.” [source] The legislation also sets up a state board that would review and approve designs for a publicly financed health insurance program available to all Vermonters.That would make Vermont the first state in the nation to have such a system.
A very controversial, last-minute change to the proposed legislation would have excluded illegal immigrants (mostly farm workers) from coverage.
Human rights activists strongly opposed the proposed changes. Others vociferously questioned the principle and also the cost of including illegal immigrants in the system. It’s interesting how matters of principle and of cost tend to get bunched together in these debates.
In Maryland, the House of Delegates and the Senate have passed the legislation, and Governor Martin O’Malley has said that he will sign the bill.
However, as reported in the Washington Post on May 4, several opponents of the legislation are trying to gather signatures to put a referendum on the matter on the ballot. It looks like a real uphill battle, however, given the short time-frame to collect the required number of signatures and have them verified.
In Vermont, the legislation has been passed in the House and the Senate and goes to Governor Peter Shumlin today for signature. Now the real work starts. There are questions pertaining to the timetable in the federal Affordable Health Care Act for states to develop such plans (a waiver would be required) and questions which will come up in the course of developing a funding plan to be presented to the Vermont legislation by 2013.
Another option: looking for a win-win solution
It’s fascinating how intense opposition to granting certain rights to undocumented immigrants—regardless of their age or the need for the often back-breaking, low-paid farm work they may perform—is couched in terms of “principle.” Wrong is wrong; illegal is illegal. What were those young illegal immigrants thinking when they allowed their parents to carry them them into this country?
And if that argument doesn’t work, there’s always the “Anyway, it would cost too much” one or a combination of the two.
The demographic imbalance argument
There’s another relevant argument which does not seem to have been raised in the public debates of these matters in the two states discussed. That’s the demographic imbalance argument. The problem isn’t that we have too many old people in this country, as has been suggested so much lately. It’s that we have too few young people.
We can use all the young, hard-working people we can get, and the better-educated they are the better. We can resolve the issues about illegal immigrant status. I would argue that the imminent passage of these two pieces of legislation represents the very best in political compromise: a win-win solution. Our immigrants have much to contribute to the country.
What do you think? Does it make sense to have a rigid punitive policy or to come with with solutions that benefit us all.