The longest government shutdown in U.S. history continues today.
To be clear, any shut down of our government is a tactical matter used by parties to exact their agenda. I am not advocating for the shutdown or its continuance. I do see, however, an opportunity for both Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress and in the White House to use this opportunity to debate the merits of funding border security, establishing honest and compassionate immigration reform and establish policy to help the millions of DACA students awaiting status determination.
As an immigrant myself (author of Embracing Change: An Immigrant Saga) I know first-hand the complexities and challenges those who have been brought here as a child from another country for a better life face. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was an important first step in recognizing the innocence and role millions of children who have grown up under the American banner have in our communities.
Congressional leaders have an opportunity to reach an agreement on their permanence allowing DACA individuals to serve in our military, attend school, work and contribute to the greater purpose of our society. Both parties at some point have said almost the same thing.
Wrapped up in the DACA discussion should be a critically important debate on border security. As a nation we all can agree that maintaining the sovereignty of our country is a priority. Whether you are affiliated with a political party or not, the mere fact that drugs, weapons and gang members can make it across our borders should be terrifying. One is one too many.
Congress has a real chance at securing our borders by allocating funding to hire additional border patrol, pay for more training and new equipment and technology. And yes, for a barrier in places where the security experts have asked indicated they needed it (calling it a wall is instant fighting words for some so let’s say fencing or barrier of some kind). This is not an immigrant issue, this is a safety matter in certain places. Again, both parties at some point in time have said the same thing.
Which leaves debate and funding for comprehensive immigration reform.
Policy on this issue should be viewed from a lens of compassion towards those seeking a better life. The manner by which we currently process applications and intake applicants is not compatible with our values systems and our integrity as a leader in the world.
Political leaders on both sides should find common ground within these issues and work on the areas where they are close to compromise. These are not just wins for their parties, they are wins for our nation. Working on national solutions in a bipartisan way brings the rest of us closer together as a nation. Immigration reform, DACA reform and border security all sound like a win-win for everyone.
Now is the time to put everything on the table and reopen the government by bridging divides through real negotiations and agreements on issues on significance to us all.
Mario A. Guerra is the former mayor of Downey and co-author of Embracing Change, An Immigrant Saga. He can be reached at www.marioaguerra.com