Friday, January 18, 2008

One Argument, 12 Million Holes

This is a great editorial from the New York Times today. However, it's not only the Democrats who need to stand up more forcefully. Where are the other pro-immigrant groups? So far, ILIR Vice Chairman, Ciaran Staunton, has been the only person we know of to publicly challenge Mitt Romney.

JAN 18, NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL: The big fat immigration bill that died last year in Congress was, for all its flaws, an anchor that kept debate tethered firmly to reality. Like it or not, it contained specific remedies for the border and the workplace. It had a plan for clearing backlogs in legal immigration and managing its future flow. Perhaps most critical, it dealt with the 12 million illegal immigrants already here, through a tough path to earned citizenship.

Unmoored from a comprehensive federal bill, the debate was pushed into the states and is now floating in the La-La Land of the presidential campaign. The Republicans have been battling over the sincerity of their sound bites and trying to make their fixation on one dimension of the problem — tough border and workplace enforcement — sound like the solution.

But it isn’t, of course, because it ignores the fundamental question of what to do about the undocumented 12 million. A locked-down border won’t affect them. There is no way to round them up and move them out all at once. Not even the most eagerly anti-immigration candidate would dare talk about detention camps. Amnesty is a Republican curse word. So what’s the plan?

This is the cavernous hole in anti-immigration policy that its proponents want to cover with chain link and razor wire. It’s where swaggering Republicans get vague and mushy. The emptiness of their position was acutely exposed in the Jan. 5 debate, when Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, ripped into Senator John McCain of Arizona for sponsoring an “amnesty” bill that did not call for the mass expulsion of 12 million people.

MR. McCAIN: There is no special right associated with my plan. I said they should not be in any way rewarded for illegal behavior.

MR. ROMNEY: Are they sent home?

MR. McCAIN: They have to get in line —

MR. ROMNEY: Are they sent home?

MR. McCAIN: — behind everybody else.

MR. ROMNEY: Are they sent home?

MR. McCAIN: Some of them are, some of them are not, depending on their situation.

You’d think that Mr. Romney wanted all illegal immigrants to be sent home. But minutes later, he told the moderator, Charles Gibson of ABC News, something completely different.

MR. GIBSON: Is it practical to take 12 million people and send them out of the country?

MR. ROMNEY: Is it practical? The answer is no. The answer is no.

Mr. Romney (who in the distant past — 2005 — called the McCain bill “reasonable”) stumbled further on a talk show, “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” the next day. He struggled over whether the McCain bill could even be called “amnesty,” since it fined illegal immigrants $5,000.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So you do believe his plan is amnesty then?

MR. ROMNEY: Not under a legal definition but under the normal, colloquial definition, yes.

Under the normal, colloquial definition, Mr. Romney is talking through his hat. But he isn’t alone. Except for Mr. McCain, the Republican candidates have skirted the issue or, worse, embraced the restrictionist approach known as “attrition.” That amounts to relentlessly tightening the screws in workplaces and homes until illegal immigrants magically, voluntarily disappear.

Making it work would require far more government intrusion into daily lives, with exponential increases in workplace raids and deportations. It would mean constant ID checks for everyone — citizens, too — with immigration police at the federal, state and local levels. It would mean enlisting bureaucrats and snoops to keep an eye on landlords, renters, laborers, loiterers and everyone who uses government services or gets sick.

Worst of all, it’s weak on law and order. It is a free pass to the violent criminals we urgently need to hunt down and deport. Attrition means waiting until we stumble across bad people hiding in the vast illegal immigrant haystack. Comprehensive reform, by bringing the undocumented out of the shadows, shrinks the haystack.

Fred Thompson has been perhaps the most vocal defender of attrition. But on Wednesday, the newly restrictionist Mike Huckabee one-upped him by signing the “No Amnesty” pledge of the nativist group NumbersUSA, formally committing to the principle that all 12 million illegal immigrants must be expelled. Americans, naturally, have no earthly idea how he would accomplish that.

Even if you accept the Republicans’ view of immigration policy as warfare against illegal immigrants, their tactics are the rejects of history, starting with that Vietnam-evoking “attrition.” The border wall is right from Monsieur Maginot’s playbook — fortifying just one of two international borders even though at least 40 percent of illegal immigrants arrive perfectly legally and then overstay their visas.

The attrition fantasy is now, by default, the national immigration strategy. The government is essentially committed to expelling all illegal immigrants, not assimilating them. Instead of bringing its power to bear, Washington has gladly handed the task to a motley collection of state and local governments, each enforcing its own rules, often at cross purposes.

Now, attrition is threatening to become a bipartisan disaster. The SAVE Act, an enforcement-only bill, was introduced last year by a Democrat, Representative Heath Shuler of North Carolina, and the notoriously restrictionist Republicans Brian Bilbray and Tom Tancredo. It is gaining sponsors.

The Republican stance on immigration leaves an opening that opponents could drive a truck through. The Democratic candidates have the better position but approach the subject with eggshell timidity. They should stand up for a real debate, and a better country, by forcefully challenging the Republicans on this issue.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

The nativists and GOPs double standard and questionable sincerity :

"Having it both ways on immigration: Crackdown on illegal immigrants coupled with slowdown on legal ones"

"... The sentiment "send 'em all home and seal the borders" may play well as a political slogan, but it doesn't remotely represent a realistic border policy. When you hear folks call to "secure the borders," the caveat is often offered, "I don't mind if they want to come here legally and go through the process to become a citizen." But when higher fees and an underfunded, belabored bureaucracy restrict legal immigration, those same voices are mostly silent. ..."


More here :

http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2008/01/having-it-both-ways-on-immigration.html

George said...

Honestly, the only way we can see an immigration bill that's practical & reasonable is to get a Democrat to the White House and reduce the Republican Senators to below 40.

The last bill was a bad one, even though many of us supported it because we wanted to finally see movement on this critical issue. Looking back, I believe it's good that it died. Now, (well, in 2009) we can see a new bill that legalizes those who've been here for a number of years, and without all the restrictions and unreasonable high bars of the old bill.

We have to get back to Senators Kennedy, Leahy, and Specter NOW. And, actively support those pro-immigration candidates running for (re) election this November.

May I suggest, your organization (and other pro-imm groups) make arrangements with the offices of the pro-imm pols and volunteer people. This also keeps pro-imms voices close to the eyes & ears of the pols.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely!

Peg the GOP senators back under 40 and then some sensible bill can see the light of day.

This is a perfect time to achieve it. Lots of GOP senators are retiring which opens up the seats for the Dems to capitalize.

2009 is not 'that' far away if we think about it.