Sometimes you've got to stand on principle. Fight for the cause. Go down swinging and all that.
But other times you need to compromise. Understand that the other guy has a valid point. To get some of what you want, you've got to let the other guy get some of what he wants.
I say that because when it comes to immigration, we have a lot of people standing on principle. What we need now is compromise. We need a sound immigration policy.
In Washington, the House wants to control the border, make criminals of illegal immigrants and imprison employers who hire illegal immigrants. Beyond that, there's no need to talk, the House believes. There's a principle at stake.
However, the Senate and President Bush are more focused on a guest worker program. Some want to create a so-called path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. They, too, are standing on principle.
Despite the scant signs of compromise, there's plenty of room for it. Here's how.
The Senate needs to acknowledge that there's a legitimate need to control the border. Not seal it or close it but control it. If terrorists never had the wit to figure it out before, they certainly know now thanks to all the publicity that they could rent a Humvee in Mexico, pack it with nuclear material and drive across the desert and through the border with little fear of being stopped, at least not until they hit traffic on the 405 freeway.
Beyond that, a controlled border would go a long way toward stopping the deplorable human trafficking across the border, in which decent people seeking a better life are financially looted and sexually abused.
And a controlled border would at least trim the flow of drugs and criminals across the border a huge issue for Los Angeles, the destination for much of that awful effluent. Immigration researcher Heather MacDonald testified to Congress last year that 95 percent of outstanding warrants for homicide in Los Angeles in a recent span targeted illegal aliens.
The Senate and the President need to acknowledge that the President's pledge to deploy 6,000 National Guardsmen to help patrol the U.S.-Mexican border falls into the too-little, too-late category. They must make a far more serious effort.
At the same time, the House should acknowledge that a guest worker program needs to begin. The House needs to face up to the fact that undocumented workers have become a part of our economy, especially in Southern California, and we need to bring order and legitimacy to that reality.
A path to citizenship is trickier. Still, the notion should be on the table.
And does the House really want to make criminals of employers who hire illegals? I say OK, but first the federal government needs to set up a reasonably foolproof identification card, perhaps involving iris scans or some other biometrics. That way, the employer won't be carted off to prison because he was hoodwinked by illegals with forged Social Security cards.
All these issues and others can be compromised away, if the two sides could emerge from their trenches and give it a try.
As the Rolling Stones once crooned, you can't always get what you want. But if you try, sometimes you might find you get what you need.
Charles Crumpley is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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