As political theatre, the Vice Presidential debate was so-so entertaining but sorely lacking on a critical issue of public policy. There was a “shout out” to third graders and a salute to the Joe Sixpacks and Hockey Moms of America from Gov. Palin, a politician who seems never to have uttered the word “immigration” from Wasilla to Anchorage to the lower-48 states’ campaign trail. There was plenty of kitchen-table talk and the debunking of Sen. McCain’s maverick moniker by Sen. Biden. But where were the candidates on the issue that immigration policy wonks and much of the public want aired? Where was Gwen Ifill, usually a class act journalist, who never asked about immigration reform?
Our country needs sunlight on immigration. Our citizens need to hear how the undocumented children and teens brought across the border by their struggling parents can be allowed to contribute to society rather than face a a fast track to the subterranean economy and street-gang membership. Our country needs an alternative to showboating ICE raids and wedge-issue politics.
Ironically, of all the pressing problems that need fixing, none could be accomplished so inexpensively as immigration reform. Budget-busting issues like health-care, tax cuts for folks earning less than $250,000 (as Obama-Biden support) or for all (as McCain-Palin propose), infrastructure refurbishment and green energy initiatives — all are threatened by the Wall Street bailout (just sweetened to $850 million in order to tease out more House votes). Comprehensive immigration reform, on the other hand, will be funded by user fees and the payment of fines and taxes as the admission ticket for unauthorized immigrants yearning to get on the path to legal status. Humane solutions and fiscal responsibility can go hand in hand with immigration reform – if only we’d just talk about it.