For at least the last several years, Independence Day in the U.S. has taken on a political flavor as July 4 fills unrelentingly with immigration news. Now in 2014, as the celebration of 238 years of declared independence from British rule comes around, the massive influx of undocumented Central American immigrants brings more amplified echoes for immigration reform.
With some estimates suggesting illegal border crossings of unaccompanied minors could total four times the rate of the previous year, heat around the issue is turning up to near-explosive temperatures.
Two years ago during a naturalization ceremony for immigrant members of the military, President Barack Obama commented that the Independence Day timing of the event was a “perfect way to celebrate America’s birthday – the world’s oldest democracy – with some of our newest citizens.” At the time, the president was still campaigning to win a second term in the White House over Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
“You put on the uniform of a country that was not yet fully your own. In a time of war, some of you deployed into harm’s way. You displayed the values that we celebrate every Fourth of July – duty, responsibility, and patriotism,” Obama said to the new citizens who were born in countries from Mexico, Ghana, the Philippines, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Russia.
Calling for immigration reform a few months before the general election in November 2012 most definitely won over Hispanics—a bloc that places immigration as critically important. And even though immigration reform continues to make its way into the news, officials in Washington are still stalemated on the issue.
Approaching Independence Day in 2014, the duty, responsibility and patriotism that President Obama spoke of two years ago are still among the dominant characteristics exhibited by many of the nation’s immigrants. Unfortunately, these are also the characteristics that get lost so easily when the political aspects of immigration continue to go un-addressed.
The platitudes espoused around reform ring hollow as thousands stream across the Southwest borders. As the U.S. prepares to celebrate another birthday, let’s hope Washington leadership becomes willing to follow through on their commitment to truly address immigration reform for so many who are now in limbo.