Every time I write about immigration, a certain demographic hurls the same two points at me like jagged rocks.
First, that illegal immigrant means illegal immigrant and all "illegals" should be deported.
Secondly, that somehow I'm for open borders and lawlessness. "Maybe you are on a gang payroll," one gentleman wrote me. "You are despicably dishonest."
These sentiments are exactly why few politicians want to touch immigration reform. It's much easier to scream provocative sound bites that make you seem "tough."
The trouble is, the ad hominem accomplishes nothing.
The trouble is, Sacramento is the epicenter of an agricultural valley dependent on immigrant labor whether some people want to admit it or not.
How about this for a possible solution: Citizenship.
Most immigration reform proposals die when a "path to citizenship" for illegal immigrants is included.
To many, awarding citizenship to "illegals" is like rewarding lawbreakers with precious jewels.
I could counter that in many cases, being undocumented in the Unites States is a civil, not a criminal, offense. Immigrants do jobs you wouldn't want and many are law-abiding people who enrich our country.
I know former undocumented immigrants and good people who received "amnesty" in 1986 from President Ronald Reagan – the patron saint of modern conservatives.
But to many, illegal is illegal!
OK, what if legislation was crafted in which undocumented immigrants admitted wrongdoing, paid a fine for being illegal and were granted legal residency provided they met certain criteria? And what if they were never granted U.S. citizenship?
Yes, undocumented people who commit crimes should be deported. But for the law-abiding who are here to work and whose work is needed, legal residency would provide a pathway out of the shadows.
We would get the labor we need. They would get to live here without fear, and denying U.S. citizenship would be the price of having been illegal.
Would that work for you? Important people in America are discussing this idea right now, among them are Latino Christians trying to bridge the divide between immigration solutions and the nativist strains afflicting America's immigration debate.
One of the leaders in this movement is the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, a Christian pastor based in Elk Grove.
I'll introduce you to him more fully on Sunday, along with other potential answers to immigration reform.
It's past time to move beyond our immigration hostility. We're Americans. We should be better than this.