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John Florez: Immigration is a test of leadership

Published: Saturday, April 27 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

It is with our congressional leaders today, who keep making excuses for not taking a stand on immigration. The most common excuse: They want to first secure the border before doing anything else.

J. Scott Applewhite, AP

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"Anyone who accomplishes anything of significance has more confidence than the facts would justify. It is something that outstanding executives have in common with gifted military commanders and brilliant political leaders ... Lacking such confidence, too many leaders ... require that the question be put through a series of clearances within the organization and let the clearance process settle it," John W. Gardner, "The Antileadership Vaccine."

And so it is with our congressional leaders today, who keep making excuses for not taking a stand on immigration. The most common excuse: They want to first secure the border before doing anything else. That's like doctors refusing to treat cancer patients until there is a cure for cancer. Or take the one from Utah's junior senator who wants to study the matter further before making a decision, a matter that has been debated for the last eight years in Utah during a time when the senator was chief legal counsel to former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who first brought it up.

For years, our national politicians have known our federal immigration policies were broken, yet they turned a blind eye on the matter. It has always been the third rail they all refused to touch. Lacking the courage to fix immigration policies, they allowed our economy to languish; employers struggled to survive, and our nation became polarized over the issue. In the meantime, undocumented workers who responded to U.S. employers' "help wanted" signs became the scapegoats of our politicians' failure to act.

When our nation's economy faltered and concern over national security escalated, politicians started finding excuses and scapegoats. However, it was only when they read the changing voter demographic polls that they started to pay attention. They were quick to demand stronger enforcement, protect our southern border, build higher fences and point fingers, to name a few. What the heightened public pressure revealed is how our current political leaders lack the courage to act. Instead of acting in the public interest as they were sworn to uphold, their only concern is staying in office.

It's not only our immigration laws that are broken, it's our political system of how we elect, finance and keep self-serving politicians in office as well. Instead of coming together to work and compromise, they choose to create conflict as a way of keeping their post. And while many praise and claim to be Reagan followers, they criticize him for taking the leadership in signing the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, where he helped find relief for our economic and labor needs of that time.

Immigration has always been a way to manage our economy and workforce problems. The proposals now being considered would unleash the consumer power of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants, identify who is in the country and improve public safety. Recent studies have shown the benefit in allowing the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States a path to citizenship. The Center for American Progress released a study in March showing if, " ... undocumented immigrants are granted legal status and citizenship in 2013 — U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP, would grow by an additional $1.4 trillion cumulatively over the 10 years between 2013 and 2022. ... And the economy would create, on average, an additional 203,000 jobs per year."

The public now clamors to fix our economy and immigration laws, but voted for politicians that lack the courage to do so and put their own interests above the public's welfare. America's greatest danger is not our borders, rather the loss of confidence in ourselves.

A Utah native, John Florez has been on the staff of Sen. Orrin Hatch, served as former Utah Industrial Commissioner and filled White House appointments, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor and Commission on Hispanic Education. Email him at jdflorez@comcast.net.

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