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What Would Comprehensive Immigration Reform Look Like If the Feds Got Off Their Duffs?

"Let's say the solution is to legalize 11 million people tomorrow. What happens with all the legal immigrants who have been waiting for sometimes decades to immigrate here legally? Don't they deserve better than to watch 11 million people who came here illegally get legalized overnight?"

But Samuel Rodriguez, president of the evangelical National Hispanic Leadership Conference, goes to the Bible to say legalization must happen anyway: "It is a moral imperative. My best case is that this has to be about integration. I quote scripture — Leviticus 19 ['You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself']."

He is not opposed to all deportation. "Let's deport the felons. Let's deport the narco-traffickers. Let's deport the gang-bangers. Let's deport those who have not come here for a better life but have come here to worsen our community. But let's look at the other 98 percent. Let's provide a pathway for integration."

David Leopold offers a starker view: "We saw the Germans expel millions and millions of people. I don't mean to be flippant, but it's the same sort of mentality, moving a population from one place to another."

That's exactly what Leo Berman will be gunning for when he arrives in Austin in January—moving an entire population from one place, here, to another one, gone. In that determination he will express his own moral values and the values of his constituents.

"Not only Texans but people all over the United States are just getting sick and tired of paying for people," he says. "This is the first time we've ever given benefits to illegal aliens, or to any aliens that come into the United States.

"My parents are immigrants. They came from Europe. They got zero. They got nothing. They had to make it on their own. But illegal aliens can't make it on their own."

Berman looks on deportation the same way most Texans do football — as a life and death competition. "The Texas Legislature meets every other year for 140 days," he explains. "We're not in session all the time. Most states around us are in session all the time."

He worries that many of these busier state legislatures are already beating Texas to the punch: "They're cutting out benefits that illegal aliens are getting with false ID cards, like a phony Social Security card or phony driver's license.

"They are making those illegals in those states self-deport. In other words, they are leaving those states. But where are they going to?"His nightmare is that other states will succeed in expelling their Latino immigrants faster than Texas and that the Latinos who self-deport will come to Texas, putting Texas at the bottom of the deportation league. "They are coming to Texas," he says, "because we haven't done anything yet."

David Leopold also views immigration reform as a competitive matter. He just doesn't think the important outcomes happen in Berman's league.

"Forget the right and the wrong about the unauthorized folks in the country. Forget the moral questions about illegality. If we want to compete, if we want to stay number one in this world, we've got to fix this immigration issue."

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