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While many differences exist between the various candidates in this presidential election season, it's worth noting that, of all the domestic-policy issues being debated this year, none is as divisive or nasty as the battle over immigration. The backlash in the country against illegal immigrants is a powerful force in this election.
Anti-immigrant sentiment can be heard from voters across the political spectrum. Yet the anger about the presence of millions of undocumented workers and their families here seems to be driving some of the Republican candidates to outdo each other to prove their zeal in stigmatizing these people.
Concern over the inability of the United States to control its borders is a legitimate matter. Nevertheless, the notion that all illegals can or should be deported is simply absurd, and so, too, is the idea that all such persons are a blight on the economy. If anything, their presence here testifies to the fact that this nation is still as it was 100 years ago -- a place where opportunity beckons.
As such, the plans for immigration reform put forward by President Bush and the Senate operated on the reasonable assumption that the goal was to find a path to citizenship for millions of illegals who are hard-working individuals, and who seek nothing more than the right to stay and contribute to America.
Reasonable people can differ as to the best way to do this, but a debate that seems to feed off of traditional anti-immigrant prejudice cheapens both the level of political discourse and the chance of providing a real solution to this complex problem.
The immigration hot-button issue is nothing less than a regrettable distraction from serious economic and foreign-policy challenges that face the nation.
As a community rooted in the immigrant experience, Jews have always sought to promote policies that welcomed newcomers and protected their rights. Anti-immigrant advocates claim that times have changed since the era of massive ethnic immigration. Yet listen to the attacks on immigrants today, and you realize that the invective let loose against Hispanics echoes the slurs used in the past against Jews, Italians and the Irish. Such prejudice should not be tolerated in any political party.