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Immigration Agenda: Republicans vs. Democrats

From Jennifer Leavitt-Wipf,
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Differences in Party Philosophies Mold Immigration Politics

Inherent differences in ideology make immigration reform quite the sticky issue between Democrats and Republicans in the USA. Compromise is never easy between these two major parties, but why does immigration law, specifically, cause some of the widest agenda gaps and political paralysis among lawmakers?

The answer may lie in some of the defining beliefs that each party was founded on.

Founding Ideology
Democratic Party
Political science defines a "democrat" as a proponent of social equality and an advocate for the underprivileged. Known as the peaceful party, the Democrats in the States rally for personal freedoms, equal rights, civil liberties, equal opportunity and free enterprise.

In short, they root for the underdog and, ideally, would like to see everyone on earth have their chance at life, liberty and the pursuit of freedom. Although Americans do come first in terms of the legal protections and rights that Democrats fight for, their views extend to people beyond the American borders as well.

Republican Party
Republican ideology is based on upholding virtue, honoring the law, performing civic duties, and on patriotism. Republicans have a headstrong sense of pride in their country and their nationality, believing that living in this great land is not a "right" that extends to all the world, but a privilege that must be dutifully earned. They will passionately fight to protect American borders and those who live legally within them. Their pride and patriotic protectiveness make Republicans much more likely to enter war than Democrats would be. And much less sympathetic to anyone who violates any American laws, or compromises border security.

The Bottom Line: Ideals and Fears
These fundamental philosophical differences certainly explain a lot. Democrats want to give illegal immigrants a chance to prove their worth and become citizens in the land of the free. They maintain that the world and the USA will both be better places if we--as a country--do not turn our backs on foreigners.

Republicans are suspicious and less optimistic that this lovely idea will work out well. They often believe that many foreigners want to "invade" the US rather than become part of it. They argue that any leeway and forgiveness at all will cause a stampede from Latin America, and--to a lesser extent--other regions around the world. Parents will tell their children "Don't worry, just lay low until the President offers another amnesty."

An objective observer from another planet might conclude that Democrats are kinder, more generous, more trusting and more forgiving, while Republicans are wiser, more cautious and more realistic.

And they might very well be right. But one of the problems with all of the debate is that it is often based on speculation and prediction. No one can look into a magic ball and predict the future (though some are quite sure they can), so they can only argue what they believe will happen if certain immigration measures, such as allowing illegal immigrants to gain legal residency (amnesty), are passed into law.

A recent poll by Associated Press-Ipsos found that for Democrats, war is the most serious problem the US is currently facing.

Republicans were almost as likely to cite immigration as the leading problem, right up there with war, reminding us that so much of the party sees border control itself as a form of self-defense and even war. Terrorism and the economy came after immigration concerns in terms perceived gravity. Given these vastly different perceptions and passionate belief systems, a celebration will definitely be in order every time lawmakers from both parties can reach a compromise on immigration reform.

There is one thing both Democrats and Republicans agree on: The American Immigration system is broken, and it needs to be fixed.

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