As I write this, the latest drama in Washington, D.C., is the attempt to deal with an estimated 11 million individuals who are in the country without following the process of legal immigration.
A U.S. Senate proposal, along with a few amendments, including one offered by Sen. Bob Corker, claims that border security will eventually be tighter after the process of "legalization" occurs.
The legislation would require a probationary status be awarded to those who become documented. This would permit residency, legal work and access to most taxpayer-funded benefits through states that allow welfare to those lawfully present in their boundaries.
But did you know that back in 1986, Ronald Reagan signed an immigration reform bill passed with bipartisan support in Congress? That "sweeping reform" included "legalization," a pathway to citizenship and border security measures, too.
Since Nov. 6, 1986, in the United States of America, the Immigration Reform and Control Act has been law.
See if any of these mandates from 27 years ago sound familiar:
• It was made illegal to knowingly hire or recruit undocumented immigrants.
• Employers were to attest to their employee's immigration status.
• All were to enroll in at least 40 hours of English instruction prior to receiving a green card.
• Those immigrants who entered the U.S. prior to Jan. 1, 1982, and resided here continuously were legalized with the penalty of a fine, paying back taxes and declaring an admission of guilt.
• Increased border patrol with enhanced inspection and enforcement mandates.
Three million individuals who deliberately side-stepped the legal process to come to America were given amnesty. And about those other provisions of the law? I think it's obvious that enforcement disappeared, along with our trust.
Then, there's the 2006 law signed by George W. Bush, the Secure Fence Act. This law mandated the Department of Homeland Security to add more than 700 miles of double-layered fence that included areas in Texas, Arizona and California, according to the Washington Post. Only 36 miles have been built according to the law's specifications.
The cynicism is explained.
Ironically, while America has struggled to deal with the hundreds crossing our southern border daily, Mexico announced in September 2010 that it would build its own border wall to separate Mexico and Guatemala.
Raul Diaz, of the "Mexican Superintendancy of Tax Administration" defended his nation's decision to limit criminal activity and admitted "it could also prevent the free passage of illegal immigrants."
You see, according to Mexico's National Commission on Human Rights, 500,000 people from Central America cross the nation's southern border "illegally every year."
America sends millions in financial aid annually to Mexico and has essentially stopped enforcing current immigration law under the Obama Administration. The government of Mexico remains a vocal opponent of any enforcement of immigration law and continues to hold open its hand for more financial support. Yet, this same government attempts to stem the tide of illegal immigrants from its Guatemalan neighbors under the reasoning of sovereignty and security.
Americans are proponents of legal immigration. Just as a citizen is required to produce identification and follow specific procedures to board an airplane or to enter most federal buildings, the average person simply desires to see current law enforced and the pathway to citizenship to be uniform and equally enforced.
The issue is being a nation of laws. If you think otherwise, just try running past the magnetometers at the airport with no identification while ignoring the orders of law enforcement.
Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the SmithWaterhouse Strategies business development and strategic planning firm.