Politics: To Strengthen His Base, Bush Beefs Up Borders
Nov. 14, 2005 issue - The White House has a new plan to revive its conservative base: a tough approach to the nation's borders. Karl Rove met with House Republicans last week on immigration, an issue that has prompted sharp criticism of the president's proposals for a guest-worker program for the past two years.
Now aides are planning to roll out new plans to beef up border security. "Expect us to talk about immigration pretty aggressively and publicly before the State of the Union," says one senior Bush aide, who requested anonymity because of the politics involved. Bush conceded to GOP leaders in June that his immigration policy had stalled. "They had to come a long way on this issue, but they're finally starting to get it," says Will Adams, spokesman for Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado. Anti-immigration groups believe the new approach to border security is the direct result of Bush's political problems. But that still leaves intense negotiations on how to draw up a guest-worker program that can satisfy the GOP in Congress.
—Richard Wolffe and Daren Briscoe
© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.
Let's face the fact: Democrats seem to be all over the place on the issue of immigration reform. Even self proclaimed progressives can't seem to reach any consensus on this issue. Without fail, every discussion about immigration will at some point degenerate into accusations of racism, naiveté, and ignorance. Folks we need to get a handle on this issue soon because the Republicans are about to create a storm of anti-immigrant backlash in the upcoming elections and Joe Sixpack is ready to choke it all down willingly. If you thought the Repugs "Blame it all on the gays" campaign was something, wait till "It's all the "illegals fault" starts showing up in the daily talking points. What's the matter with Kansas?... Illegals of course.
Here's how it will work:
Q. Joe Sixpack, do you know why you can't find a decent job?
Is it because of globalization, outsourcing, and decline in the manufacturing sector, a faltering economy or corporate greed, all of which were aided and abetted by an administration that is not only inept but morally corrupt.?
A. No way.... It's illegals who come here by the millions every year to steal American jobs from hardworking people like you.
Q. Joe Sixpack, do you know why you can't afford decent healthcare?
Is it because the big pharmaceutical companies and the insurance industry spend millions of dollars every year to bribe politicians to rig the system so they can make billions of dollars of profit from average Americans?
A. No way......It's because illegals go to emergency rooms and never pay the bill and hardworking people like you must pay the tab.
Q. Joe Sixpack, do you know why your kid can't read?
Is it because this administration places no real value on education and has cut funding for it. That it places a costly mandate on the local level to "leave no child behind", while forcing them to cut other needed programs to pay for it. That nothing would make this administration happier than the dismantling of the public education system to be replaced by a voucher system for Christian madrasses?
A. No way....It's because illegals send their kids (of which they have too many) to our schools for free, where we spend all your money to teach them English.
Every domestic failure of this administration will be placed at the feet of the undocumented immigrants, from failures on jobs and healthcare to education. You can see where this leads. Security..."How can we keep you safe from terrorism when there are millions of illegals getting in the way at the border?" Huge federal deficit...."illegals don't pay taxes." Every issue no matter how complex will be reduced down to a simplistic "Blame the illegals" answer. Just as all social issues have been reduced down to a battle between: right-thinking patriotic Christians vs. Pagan, liberal gay-loving elites. I realize that immigration reform is a very complex issue, and as with all good propaganda there is a small seed of truth in the "Joe Sixpack" campaign. The point is that the real heart of all these problems lies not with illegal immigration, but with the unbelievable failures of this administration and its policies.
Many might say that the big corporations would never allow this kind of campaign because they need illegal immigration and profit from it. Wrong. If illegal immigration was to stop today, big business would just do what they've always done ...they'd adapt.
When the unions forced them to increase labor costs, at first they simply replaced men with machines, later when the remaining workers became too expensive, they packed up their tents like carnival snake oil salesmen and took their show elsewhere to places like China. They don't give a damn as long as there's a profit to be made. "No illegal immigrants here to pay low wages to...no problem we'll go somewhere else where the labor is already cheap".
This is even true of big agriculture where a large percentage of illegals work. "No more lettuce pickers at $3.00 an hour, no problem bring in that new picking machine, it'll pay for itself in one season". Big business makes far more money from Republican economic policies than it saves by hiring un-documented workers. Even in the worst "Joe Sixpack" scenario those businesses that found they really needed illegal workers would qualify for some sort of "Guest Worker" program. Small businesses would suffer from a lack of immigrant workers, but since they don't hold much sway with the major political players they would have to just sit back and watch.
We, as progressives, have to be ready to counter this kind of attack. Its power and appeal are immense. Not only does it shield the Repugs from their failures, it plays into the fears and racism that have always been a calling card of Republican politics. The progressive community must do two things to counter this kind of campaign: reach a consensus on a comprehensive, fair and practical immigration policy, and work out a strategy to make sure that the blame for all the failures of this administration fall where they belong: on the doorstep of the Republican party.
The next time you hear Lou Dobbs talk about "Broken Borders" or Buchanan "The Death of the West", or see Minutemen patrolling the desert, remember this is just the tip of a very large iceberg. When the Immigration Titanic hits that iceberg, it will be those immigrants down in steerage that will go down with the ship, not the fat-cats on the promenade deck or the captain at the helm if they can have anything to do with it.