Before Congress can pass comprehensive immigration reform, the first thing we have to do is lift the fog. This means confronting the top-to-bottom dishonesty in the immigration debate, dispensing with the falsehoods and talking candidly about how we got here and where we go now.
As the Senate's "Gang of Eight" gears up to unveil its much-anticipated plan for comprehensive immigration reform, it's time to confront the whoppers that Americans tell themselves about immigration and immigrants.
Here are the top 10:
All Latinos condone illegal immigration and want an open border. Public opinion surveys, including a 2012 report by the Pew Hispanic Center, have consistently found that nearly half of Latinos think the way to handle illegal immigration is through increased border security, either as a stand-alone strategy or together with a pathway to citizenship for the immigrants.
Deportation is the end of the road, and so once an illegal immigrant is removed, he never comes back. I know a woman who was deported one week, and back home with her kids the next. And that's nothing. T.J. Bonner, former head of the Border Patrol agents' union, likes to tell a story about how he arrested the same guy three times in one eight-hour shift.
Americans don't want to keep out legal immigrants, only those here illegally. Actually, some want to keep out both. There are lawmakers who favor a moratorium on all immigration, and some of the country's leading anti-immigrant advocacy groups make clear in their mission statements that they want to end illegal immigration but also limit legal immigration.
This isn't about race or racism. If that were true, it would be the first time in the more than 230-year history of the United States that Americans were able to have a colorblind discussion about setting immigration policy; inevitably it becomes about keeping out one group or another.
The only reason the United States has so much illegal immigration is because U.S. employers don't pay high-enough wages to attract U.S. workers to do those jobs. In many cases, it's not the wages but the fact that Americans have, over the generations, moved away from the hard and dirty jobs now done by immigrants.
The problem is a lack of border enforcement. This week, Sen. Marco Rubio -- a pivotal member of the "Gang of Eight" -- privately briefed fellow GOP senators on the immigration reform proposal and promised that the bill would contain "the toughest enforcement laws in U.S. history." So what? There are already more than 20,000 Border Patrol agents, more than twice the number in 2004. And yet experience tells us that desperate people will always go around, under or over any obstacle we put in their way.
Illegal immigration is all about cost, with no benefit. There is no doubt that illegal immigrants put a strain on schools, hospitals and jails. And while there is no evidence that illegal immigrants come here for the benefits, they even put a strain on welfare programs. They don't quality for aid but their U.S.-born children do. However, what is less often discussed is that illegal immigrants pay a host of taxes -- payroll, property, sales, income, etc. They also help fuel the economic engine so that the companies that hire them can then create more jobs, and pay even more taxes.
It's all Mexico's fault. It's hard to argue that Mexico has done right by its own people, and that it shouldn't be creating more jobs at home so Mexicans don't have to flee to the north. That said, Americans experience illegal immigration because, in good times and bad, they hire illegal immigrants. Let's not blame Mexico for this.
Latino immigrants aren't learning English or otherwise assimilating. Studies show that Latino immigrants today are following the same pattern of assimilation as earlier waves. In 2007, after political scientist Samuel Huntington argued that Latino immigrants were assimilating more slowly than their European predecessors, a team of political scientists -- Jack Citrin, Amy Lerman, Michael Murakami and Kathryn Pearson -- tested the theory and found no evidence to support it.
If you oppose a dumb idea to curb illegal immigration, then you must be pro-illegal immigration. Not necessarily. You might just be anti-dumb ideas.
See there, the fog is already starting to lift. And we can see more clearly what we're dealing with. Bring on immigration reform.
Contact Ruben Navarrette at email@example.com.