The former Arizona governor was quoted in a local newspaper as saying two-thirds of the public wants immigration fixed, understanding that the U.S. is not going to deport an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. The remaining one-third, she said, don’t want any changes.
It’s an emotionally explosive issue, not only along Arizona’s southern border but for much of the nation. During recent decades, Congress, whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats, has been unable to come up with a satisfactory plan.
Neither party wants to offend the growing Hispanic population in the U.S., particularly those who are here legally and can vote.
A few years ago, U.S. Sen. John McCain supported a plan that would give illegal immigrants a path toward citizenship. It was shelved after the public criticized it as amnesty.
But McCain wasn’t the first U.S. senator from Arizona to offer suggestions and possible solutions. In 1978, Barry Goldwater issued a statement that outlined his views on immigration policy.
Goldwater’s platform for dealing with the thorny issue is reprinted in the 2008 book “Pure Goldwater” by John W. Dean and Barry Goldwater Jr. Published by Palgrave MacMillan of New York, “Pure Goldwater” is based on unpublished journals of the iconic Arizonan, who died in 1998.
It’s interesting how little has changed in the past 30 years.
America, Goldwater wrote, “is like a magnet that draws people from other, perhaps less-fortunate, countries, and many of these countries are in close proximity to the United States.” He continued in a sympathetic tone: “With the incentive of a better life, people will brave laws and obstacles to come here. Thus, this is a complex problem with no easy solution.”
Two proposals, not new to the debate even then, that Goldwater shot down might sound familiar. He stated: “The Carter administration has proposed granting amnesty to illegal aliens in this country who have established ‘equity.’ This might take the form of working, length of residence and the like. The Congress has viewed this plan with little enthusiasm and so have I. What amnesty would do in effect is reward people who knowingly break our laws. Beyond that, it would be inequitable and unfair to those who have applied for legal immigration and may often wait years for approval.”
The second so-called solution that drew Goldwater’s ire would have penalized an employer who knowingly hires illegal immigrants. He suggested that “these employer sanctions” are “discriminatory and could raise possible violations of civil rights of potential employees. It is the government, not the employer, who should bear the main responsibility of determining who is here legally and who is not.”
That said, Goldwater recommended expansion of a temporary-worker program: “I am the co-sponsor of legislation that would establish a temporary-worker program under which Mexican nationals could enter the United States. This type of program could be extended to other primary sending countries of illegal aliens. It addresses labor market needs for seasonal agricultural workers in a regulated fashion. American workers would be protected under my bill. Visas would be good for 180 days, not necessarily consecutive. This ‘Bracero’-type program would control the number of workers coming in, provide monitoring and channel the flow of illegal aliens through a legal mechanism.”
Goldwater then offered a litany of suggestions: better inspection, detection, surveillance and manpower capabilities for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Border Patrol and Customs Service. “Our personnel do an admirable job under often trying circumstances, but they need more funds, improved equipment and more manpower,” the senator wrote. “We need a clearer U.S. immigration policy that is actually enforced. We need increased cooperation with the countries that are sending illegal aliens.”
He tossed in a novel suggestion that would provide economic incentives to encourage residents to remain in their native lands. “I am not talking about foreign aid, which is something that I’ve never voted for, but, rather, some kind of joint American private industry/host country ventures (manufacturing, construction, textiles, etc.) that would provide employment within the host country,” Goldwater stated.
He concluded with: “America’s capacity to absorb more and more people is not limitless. I understand and am sympathetic to the reasons why people wish to come to the United States. But the hard reality is that America cannot be a lifeboat to all who wish to come aboard.”
Any of this sound familiar?