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Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg had an op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times with an important message for Democrats: Lean into comprehensive immigration reform. Greenberg believes that it will show that Democrats are interested in making government work, and prove that they are interested in rewarding responsibility and punishing irresponsibility. He challenges the conventional wisdom adhered to by some Democrats (that they should avoid the immigration issue) and explains what the convential wisdom on immigration should be:
To show that government can protect the nation’s interests, Democrats should advocate policies that would control the borders and address problems of undocumented workers.
Dealing with this is even more important in Europe, where anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic parties are surging at the expense of the mainstream left and right parties in France, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway, site of the recent slaughter for which an extreme right-winger has claimed responsibility.
In the face of such madness, it is tempting to view the issue as illegitimate, but mainstream parties do so at great cost. Our work in Austria and Britain shows that it is possible for progressives to champion immigration policies that protect the labor market and promote and require integration, beginning with language and schooling.
In the United States, those who advocate comprehensive immigration reform are demonstrating that they consider responsibility a primary value. My surveys show that voters want comprehensive immigration reform rather than half measures. They would like to see strong enforcement at the border and in the workplace, and the expulsion of troublesome undocumented immigrants. While favoring toughness, they also want to find ways to put undocumented workers on a path to citizenship.
These measures, if pushed by Democrats, would show that government operated by the right values. Just as Mr. Clinton’s welfare reform in 1996 required efforts to make work pay and expand child care, immigration reform can show how progressives punish irresponsibility and reward responsibility.