What has been made most clear to me during this last year debating and studying the immigration issue, is that this issue, more so than any other, makes for the strangest political bedfellows one could imagine. To help illustrate my point, I created this chart (click to enlarge):
The left to right axis is the political ideological spectrum ranging from big-government-flaming-liberal on the left to small-government-tea-totaler on the right. The verticle axis represents views on immigration. At the top we have the restrictionist perspective which might reflect a view of limited immigration policy and/or a heavy enforcement preference in policy. The bottom of the spectrum would be dominated by a laissez faire policy view with more open borders.
This chart is by no means scientific but I tried to place the parties and institutions where I felt they belonged on the grid. Despite it's imperfections, I think it illustrates the point. The liberal-conservative axis almost becomes meaningless when applied to the immigration issue. Recent immigrants oppose new immigrants coming and competing for their jobs; liberal humanitarian groups and conservative religious organizations support allowing people the freedom to free themselves from tyranny in their homelands by coming to America; the Tea Party supports the stern rule of law while the Republican Party tries to balance the interests of business and the economy. It would seem that politics doesn't get any more interesting and rancorous than this.
However, it doesn't necessarily have to be that way in our discourse. I am always a big advocate for civil debate on the issues. Even emotionally charged issues deserve level headed discussion to help create reasonable solutions to policy questions. This civility is best practiced in our own personal lives. So, the next time you engage someone in a debate on this or any heated issue, think about their perspective and try to understand their argument before you engage in advocating for your position. You will be surprised at how much more respect that person will have for you and your point of view...even if you disagree in the end.