As the prospects of serious immigration reform have exploded over the past week, we propose a change to how advocates of immigration reform call it. For years, we have called it comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). This formulation has gotten us nothing. Why is that? Perhaps it is because very few people, not steeped in the legal mumbo-jumbo of immigration, have any idea what it means. It sounds complex and challenging and like something designed by the social engineers to radically change America. While “comprehensive immigration reform” sounds cumbersome, the ideas underlying CIR are simple and appealing. Americans overwhelmingly favor comprehensive immigration reform even if they do not know exactly what it means. Poll after poll shows that Americans support providing some sort of amnesty, yes, amnesty, for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Polls show that Americans want to allow immigrants who work hard, stay out of trouble and support their families to be able to obtain residence. Most Americans support such common-sense rules that are neither unnecessarily harsh or absurdly lenient.
Therefore, we propose that the term “comprehensive immigration reform” be allowed to die a dignified death. In its wake, we propose that advocates push for “common-sense immigration reforms.” For years, Republicans have been successful in distilling complex issues to overly simple soundbites. Think of “death taxes,” “drill, baby drill,” “family values.” Think what you may of these terms and the policies they represent, but you can not deny that they have been effective at distilling complex issues into easily comprehensible terms for public consumption. This has been the genius of Republican electoral success. That may not seem apparent in the aftermath of Tuesday’s historic election, but, for decades, the Republicans have used these terms to brand their party as the party of main street, common sense solutions. It is time to recognize the genius of that approach. While “comprehensive immigration reform” sounds like something created by lobbyists and special interests in Washington, “common-sense immigration reform,” sounds more like bringing mainstream American values of fairness, compassion and reward for hard work to the nation’s immigration laws.
One other reasons to support the shift- it has the advantage of also being true. It does not take a law degree or a lobbyist to convince the American people that immigrants deserve a fair shake. It is common sense.