Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The hypocrisy of the Border Security Republicans (SC-05)

Like many other Republican candidates from areas far from the border with relatively small populations of undocumented immigrants, Ralph Norman, running in S. Carolina's 5th district, has made "border security" a cornerstone of his campaign.

Accusing his opponent, Rep. John Spratt, of being soft on immigration, Norman has hammered away on the issue tenaciously. Stating that "only by sealing our borders first can we truly stop the unregulated flow of illegal immigrants into our country." Norman proposes that we need to "identify the illegal immigrants living inside our borders and remove the laundry list of incentives that encourage them to live here illegally…"

But the real estate developer turned candidate has one big problem. His development company employs numerous undocumented workers at various sites, making him one of the very people he would have us believe are providing an incentive for "illegal immigrants" to come here.

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Despite the fact that S. Carolina's 5th District has one of the lowest levels of undocumented immigrants in the nation(1), putting it on par with places like N Dakota and Montana, Ralph Norman, like many other Republicans this election cycle, has chosen to use border security as the key issue in his campaign. Relying on the general hysteria whipped up by the House leadership over the issue of "illegal immigration," candidates like Norman have been focusing on the border as a means to insulate themselves from the electorates overall discontent with Republican performance and policies over the last few years.

Norman's TV spots have all featured some aspect of border security as their major theme. This despite the fact that his opponent has voted with the Republican majority on most border security issues.

Yet despite the obvious contradictions of running an anti-immigration campaign in an area with a very low concentration of foreign-born non-citizens, against a candidate who recently voted to double the size of the border patrol, build a security fence and bolster port security, Norman has continued to press the issue. But revelations about just how Norman runs his person business have raised serious questions about the level of hypocrisy the candidate is willing to stoop too.

Press accounts revealed that Norman, through his company, Warren Norman Co., has hired numerous undocumented workers at various sites.

The Observer identified and visited properties owned by Norman and several of his businesses and spoke with workers.

Two construction workers at Shiland Village, a Rock Hill office and retail project on Celanese Road, said they work for a contractor on the job and are illegal immigrants from Mexico. Norman and his brother David own the property. Across the road, another contract worker at Warrington Place, a townhouse development, said he came here illegally from Mexico.
Charolette Observer

When asked about the situation, Norman replied that "We do what the law requires."

NORMAN: “I don't know who the Mexicans work for. They probably work for Wachovia.”

Norman said the immigrants worked for a sub contractor, not his company.

NORMAN: “I do not check our subcontractors. People that have a company they hire their own people. I don't check it now and won't in the future. That's why we need an immigration policy.”

There are free, federal programs available to employers to verify Social Security numbers and immigration status. The programs are voluntary, but such worker verification has been part of immigration-reform bills in both the House and Senate….

Norman said Thursday that he didn't know about the existing verification programs. Initially, he said he would "absolutely not" require contractors on his projects to use the programs. Later in the day, he said he'd check into the programs and would consider requiring contractors to use them.

However, he said: "It's unfair to say business should take responsibility for the government….

With, sinking poll numbers across the country for Republican polices, it's no small wonder that in races across the country Republican candidates have tried to find a new group do demonize in hopes of garnering support. But Norman has perhaps demonstrated just how shallow and callous this whole issue really is. He apparently sees no hypocrisy in demanding the harshest punishment possible for the undocumented who come here to find jobs and make a better life, while at the same time profiting off their labor. As an employer he was unaware of the very mechanisms available to ensure his workers were in fact legal, and when made aware of them after years of business experience, he stated at first he had no intention of adhering to the law and availing himself of the programs.

From the very start the "border security" and "illegal immigration" issues have been exercises in hypocrisy and misdirection.

Failure after failure by the federal government to really make our nation secure, from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Korea, to securing our ports, mass transportation and vital infrastructure have been convoluted and transformed into a simplistic crusade for "border security" to close the southern border.

Domestically, every policy failure of the last 25 years has been laid at the feet of the demon "illegal immigrant," from the health care crisis, a failing education system, and job loss, to the undue tax burden placed on middle and working class Americans while the top 1% benefit. The Republican Party, through their House surrogates have relinquished all responsibility for their actions. Instead they have formulated a policy of misdirection to place the blame squarely on the 4% of the population that are in this country without documentation.

Ralph Norman has now demonstrated just how hollow the anti-immigrant rhetoric rings. It's all just the smoke and mirrors of a charlatans sideshow. A patent medicine for the American public made of one part fear and two parts ignorance…. and having swallowed down a whole bottle of Tancredo's Magical Elixir, the nation will only be sicker for the exercise.

(1) The SC-05 has a foreign born population of 18,115 (2.78% of population), putting it far bellow the 12.4% national average. Of those, 1.98% are non-citizens (13,680). Of the non-citizen residents 55% arrived prior to 2000, and 45% came between 2000- 2005. This is nowhere near Mr. Norman's claim of a 1000% increase in "illegal immigrants" in the last few years, in fact the number has not even doubled in the last five years.
US Census 2005 Community Survey, SC community profiles
US Census 2005 Community Survey, analysis by MPI

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The repubs have lost their biggest card (Iraq/WOT) and as they go down for the third time they frantically grab onto whatever they can. This guy chose to grab onto immigration which he understands about as well as he understands string theory.