When I saw two of the leading voices on opposing sides of the immigration debate share the same can of Diet Coke, I thought maybe there’s a chance for compromise after all.
Our hosts at the International Center for Journalists in Washington, D.C., started our program off strongly by inviting pro-enforcement advocate Jerry Kammer of the Center for Immigration Studies to sit with pro-immigrant rights advocates Tamar Jacoby of ImmigrationWorks USA and Angela Kelley of the Center for American Progress.
Each side took expected stances, but it was interesting to hear them discuss their strategies in more human terms.
Kammer talked about the country we're leaving for our grandchildren. He said the United States can't sustain its current rate of population growth, and he raised concerns that we could lose our large middle class if we inherit a more Mexican-like social structure dominated by disparate upper and lower economic classes.
Kelley talked about learning from the failed effort to pass reform in 2007 and taking tips from their opponents to build more middle-America support. She characterized as similar to "walking over Niagara Falls with an umbrella and a stiff wind." She expressed optimism, however, that some reform bill could be ready by next spring.
Kammer and Jacoby, who split a Coke, did appear to agree on the benefits of Wednesday's announcement that the Obama administration will award federal contracts only to employers who use federal databases to verify employees' immigration status.
"The business community welcomes workplace enforcement," said Jacoby, who represents employers backing reform. "Ultimately though it has to come with a legal pipeline to get the workers that America needs for future economic growth."
The Center of Immigration Studies has long supported the program, known as E-Verify, but it was surprising to hear Jacoby's support when many immigrant rights groups have lobbied against the program.
It may be a small thing, but on this issue where extreme views dominate, it's nice to see signs of shared interest – even if it's over a pop.