Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Making sense of the GOP's immigration schizophrenia

Last week the Republican immigration dog and pony show hit the road. Like any good circus midway, it contains a mix of freak shows, fixed games and snake-oil salesmen whose main purpose is to pick the pockets, or in this case steal the votes, of unsophisticated local rubes. Utilizing double talk to prey on the public's naiveté, these political carnies offer up a midway where the prizes promised will never be worth the price of the game.

Under the big top, it appears the acts in the three rings are at odds with each other, with clowns, elephants, and monkeys running amok. In one ring, House Republicans feature a xenophobic revival meeting with appeal to a rough trade mix of minutemen and border cowboys. In another, Bush juggles for his uptown clientele. Yesterday, Ringmaster Karl took the center ring, and performed some slight-of-hand to rival any two-bit patent medicine purveyor as he attempted to convince the Latino activist group La Raza that Republicans had their best interests at heart.

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All this would be an interesting summer distraction if it were not so serious. Like a killer-clown horror movie where the harmless sideshow freaks turn on the unsuspecting townsfolk, it's just a matter of time before the Republican immigration carnival performers unite to begin their real work. What seems like chaos at present may very well turn out to be nothing more than a warm up act for the main event. At some point the Republicans will reach a "compromise" that will contain all the worst aspects of their proposals. Having spent the summer priming the public with a staged wrestling match, the compromise can then be heralded as the most reasonable agreement between the warring factions. The American electorate will then be presented with this years major distractive wedge issue. There will be no talk of Iraq or Katrina or the myriad of other conservative policy failures ... just immigration 24/7.

It seems impossible at the present time that any sort of compromise could ever be reached under the Republican big top, but if we listen carefully to what their saying, a common ground can be found... and it's not pretty.

The House Republican sideshow began last week with photo-op hearings along the border in San Diego and Laredo. Featuring hand-picked panels to rehash the merits of the seven month old Sensenbrenner bill, the hearing brought out the vocal right-wing fringe.

About 200 people, including scores of Minuteman Project border activists waving "Don't Tread on Me" flags, attended the House hearing at the Imperial Beach Border Patrol station on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Some of their cars sported "Tancredo for President" bumper stickers, a reference to Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Republican and an advocate for sharply restricting immigration -- who, so far, isn't running.


Even the House spokesmen are not making too much of an effort to present their hearings as anything more than blatant political posturing. Usually Congress holds hearings prior to the passage of legislation to research an issue and look for solutions to a problem. In this case House Republicans have been frank in stating that the goal of the two month road show is to create a negotiating tool by rallying public support and discrediting the Senate bipartisan compromise plan.

The goal is to convince the Senate and the American public that a bill approved by the House of Representatives that emphasizes enforcement is better than a Senate bill, said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Fullerton (Orange County), chairman of the Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation, which sponsored the hearing.

"It's an educational effort on our Senate colleagues and the American people, because as the public becomes more cognizant about the border, the pressure increases in our direction," Royce said after the hearing.


As the House members posed for photo-ops with border patrol agents and local sheriffs, George Bush went on his own immigration road trip. First appearing with Larry King then following up with a press conference in Chicago the next day. Bush's comments, although familiar by now, opened a window of opportunity for Republican compromise.

From Larry King Live:

KING: We're back in the Blue Room with President and Mrs. Bush. Immigration. This law. When is it going to be passed and did you hedge back a little. You now say the other day that you first want to see that the borders are safe before we work on legalizing the immigrants.

G. BUSH: I don't think I said that. I have always said we need a comprehensive plan. First and foremost we've got to enforce the border and that means more border patrol agents, better technology, ending catch and release. Secondly that we've got to have interior enforcement. But I don't see how you can enforce a border unless you have a rational way for people to come here and work temporarily.


KING: Well, we had amnesty in other cases in the past.

G. BUSH: I know but it won't work in this case. Just not the right thing to do. If you're trying to solve the problem, bringing people automatic citizenship isn't solving the problem. It's creating another problem, which is another 8 million people or so will come and hope to get granted automatic citizenship.

Secondly, is you can't reward people who broke the law because you've got people standing in line legally, because we're a nation of laws, we've got to uphold the laws. But this is -- we have a duty to enforce the border and I think everybody agrees with that and -- and we are. We are expanding agents, and we're expanding technologies, but I think it needs -- there needs to be a plan that recognizes people coming here to do work Americans aren't doing. And they ought to be allowed to do so on a temporary basis for a limited period of years provided they pass a criminal background check and then go home.


What will it take "unite" these warring factions?

Bush is already willing to give the House Republicans their "enforcement first." He's recently met with Mike Pence (R-IN) who has stumbled on the holly grail for Republican compromise on this issue; privatization of the immigration processes. You can almost hear the squeals of delight coming from Dick Cheney's office at the thought of doling out no-bid contracts not only for border security and immigrant incarceration but also immigrant processing.

So it appears the only missing puzzle piece in a Republican compromise is: How do they assure a constant supply of low cost workers for businesses after they get rid of the 12 mil undocumented immigrants already here using Tancredo's attrition plan?

The answer is simple ... Bush's guest workers. Notice how on Larry King he stresses the need for these workers to be here "on a temporary basis for a limited period of years provided they pass a criminal background check and then go home" That's the key.

Up until now the guest worker program has been tied to a plan to allow workers to legalize their status after a given amount of time and work towards citizenship. It was a key aspect of the compromise Senate bill that allowed some Unions and immigrant activists groups to get behind the bill. They figured that as long as the guest workers had some hope of naturalization they could overlook the exploitive nature of importing workers on a temporary basis.

If Bush was to eliminate that one provision, he could probably sell the plan to Sensenbrenner and the anti-immigration House Republicans. This kind of compromise would allow the House Republicans to close the border to maintain the racial balance that so concerns them. They could also criminalize the undocumented and go after the employers to drive out the 12 million already here. Then allow in a controlled flow of indentured servants to do the jobs that they all know Americans don't really want.

All Bush has to do is figure out a way to assure the House Republicans that the temporary workers will leave when their term of service is over.

At the moment that part of the plan has not been worked out or perhaps revealed, but I would bet it will have a "privatization" component. It could be data bases, biometrics, or microchip implants, but at the end of the day it will definitely involve huge government contracts handed out to big Republican donors.

As the summer progresses we need to watch the movement of the Republicans on this issue. At some point Ringmaster Karl will blow his whistle and the chaos we see now under the big top will subside as all the circus players start to perform in unison. The jugglers, lion tamers, and acrobats will take the stage as the clowns and monkeys take their leave, and once again the Great Republican Election Show will begin.


almamia said...

So why the silence?!

We marched in April and May -- and we VOTE!!!

Our silence gives legitmacy to the myth that the marches were comprised of "illegals".

I'm all for the voter registration drives, etc. But I don't need to register! I'll vote in the primary and in the generals -- as I always do!

Why aren't more marches being organized that will mobilize all of us voters plus the newly registered voters to scare the pants off the politicians?!

Who was that sleeping giant anyway? Let's get that bad boy back out on the streets!

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