Demanding strict — relentless — enforcement of our immigration laws is a bit like rooting for the 19-year persecution by Inspector Javert of Jean Valjean for having stolen a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s seven starving children in “Les Misérables.” Those who call for relentless prosecution might well reflect on Javert’s ultimate fate — suicide — when consumed by cognitive dissonance produced by recognizing the sterling character that Valjean had developed.
By enacting a statute of limitations for illegal immigration, Republicans could force passage in the Senate and a signature by the president. There is much more than the resolution of a merely political dilemma at stake.
Yes, a statute of limitations will provide new legitimacy for the GOP among Latinos. Of much greater moral gravity is this: Such a change has the power to unleash the imprisoned economic and social lightning of millions of otherwise law-abiding people.
Common law, based on common sense, provides a pathway to a clean resolution of an otherwise intractable problem. Speaker Boehner: enact a statute of limitations. Such a resolution, as Javert was incapable of finding, is the way out of political suicide.
A statute of limitations will serve America’s national interests, as well as the GOP’s. Not incidentally it will create a humanitarian breakthrough of historic proportions. The statute of limitations meets the Statue of Liberty. That’s not amnesty. That’s the American way.
Ralph Benko is an author and regular columnist for Forbes.com. He serves as senior adviser, economics, for American Principles in Action and was a junior official in the Reagan White House.