Immigration Measures All About Midterm Election genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Border security

What a difference an election makes. Several months back the President made a prime time speech arguing for comprehensive immigration reform but it now appears that he will endorse what can only be characterized as a string of measures intended to garner votes for GOP candidates in November.

Absent from the legislation are much needed revisions to the employer enacted verification procedures which can be argued are the fundamental flaw that creates the bulk of the ever increasing motivation for more immigration. Unfortunately, such provisions would potentially anger many of the GOP's corporate and business backers so this will continue to be an area that is ignored. Instead, the President will likely sign a bill to build a 700 mile long fence at a cost in excess of two billion dollars. The New York Times has an excellent editorial on the partisan and ineffective measures likely to be approved.

Republican leaders want you to think they are hard at work overhauling the broken immigration system in the last days before going home. But don’t be fooled by the noise and dust. These are piecemeal rehashes of legislation the House passed last December. They include a 700-mile border fence that would cost more than $2 billion and would not work, and tough-sounding but profoundly undemocratic bills that would allow the indefinite detention of some illegal immigrants seeking asylum, make it easier to deport people without judicial review, and require voters to prove citizenship before participating in federal elections. The latter measure attacks an imaginary problem — voting fraud by illegal immigrants — and would disenfranchise countless Americans who are old and poor.

Among the most poisonous provisions is one that would give state and local police agencies authority to enforce federal immigration laws. Police departments big and small have bristled at the idea, saying they lack the expertise and the resources to enforce immigration law. They say it would cripple crime fighting by severing hard-won relationships with potential victims and witnesses: immigrants who will end up fearing and avoiding them.

But for every police chief who sees this as a foolish attack on law enforcement, there is a sheriff or local politician, like Steve Levy, the Suffolk County executive on Long Island, who is just itching to seize control of his or her own little corner of the immigration battlefield. It’s an every-mayor-for-himself approach that would only worsen the ad hoc incoherence of the national immigration system.

The reality is that the legislation expected to be passed is intended to appeal to those voters who have what I would characterize as a vigilante mentality. It seems to me that the goal is to enable every tough talking Republican candidate to embrace a "round them up and send them home" campaign without having to address the tough issue of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants who are already in the country. As with negative campaigning, these measures offer the red meat to angry voters who prefer to respond with hostility and a lack of reasoned analysis when confronted with issues that they want addressed. Politicians supporting such piecemeal measures should be ashamed of their shortsighted approach to this issue...one that will not be resolved with these provisions...but then it appears that reelection is apparently more important than solving problems.

The House’s election hunt for border-security sound bites shows how susceptible to demagoguery the debate can be. Anti-immigrant fervor is a flame that spreads easily. But leadership can help people look beyond resentment and fear. Once upon a time, Mr. Bush was a sense-talking governor from a border state who understood this. Now he has joined the leaders of his party in calling on the nation to cower behind electric fences, searchlights and squad cars. It’s painful to see what he has turned into, and frustrating, in these days of immigration panic, to keep waiting for a real leader to emerge.

Daniel DiRito | September 26, 2006 | 8:20 AM
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Comments

1 On September 27, 2006 at 12:53 PM, Jimi wrote —

Daniel,

I agree. The only thing that matters is reelection - and the Party maintaining its Power. Us poor schmucks who vote, wanting problems solved?

Get real. We have no lobbyists, no cash, we have no representation.

Thought Theater at Blogged

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