Sunday, February 10, 2013

Republicans Continue Duking It Out Over Immigration Policy


The Republican Party seems divided between those who want to move ahead with the inevitable and make the best of it and hope they eventually get some Hispanic and Asian voters and those who just don't want to ever let go of the hatred, bigotry and racism that defines who they are at their innermost core. It's a new twist in the American immigration saga which has traditionally been about the haters and bigots on one side and those who want cheap labor on the other side. Of course that dynamic still underlies the debate. But the pro-immigration reform Republicans are trying to win the day with the opportunistic political argument instead. It's not gaining much traction and the far right is calling them out for their dishonesty. Today on Fox News Sunday McCain told Chris Wallace that "There are 11 million people living in the shadows, I believe that they deserve to come out of the shadows..." and asked, rehorically of his right-wing detractors, "what do you want to do with them?”

Some Republican congressmen, sick of Boehner's incompetence and his runaway alcoholism-- many complained during the swearing in ceremonies that spouses and parents remarked that he stunk of booze-- are floating the idea of bringing back Newt Gingrich as Speaker! One even went so far as to consult with a parliamentarian to make certain that the Speaker need not be an elected member of Congress! The idea is embarrassing for Boehner but it isn't going anywhere-- except maybe in Tim Huelskamp's dreams. Gingrich, on the other hand, is urging Republican House members to accept "reality" (usually a dirty word in GOP circles) and quickly pass the immigration reform, including the pathway to citizenship the hard right opposes so vociferously. This is from the letter Gingrich sent his list on Friday.
There are 12 million people in this country who have come here illegally. It wasn’t our choice for this to happen, but their presence is a fact. So we must decide: Are we really going to deport all 12 million people, many of whom have deep ties here?

My position was that people who have come here recently, have no ties to this country, should go home. But the-size-fits-all deportation of 12 million people, without regard to their circumstances, would constitute a level of inhumanity the American people would never accept.

As I said in a Florida debate, “We as a nation are not going to walk into some family...and grab a grandmother out and then kick them out.”

In response to this call for discretion and humanity, while at the same time enforcing the law, several other candidates-- including our party’s eventual nominee-- had repeatedly accused me of amnesty.

...It is difficult to understand how someone running for President of the United States, a country with more than 50 million Hispanic citizens, could fail to acknowledge that the American people should not take grandmothers who have been here 25 years, have deep family and community ties-- and forcibly expel them.

When asked in a Florida debate if, in light of his criticism, his own immigration proposal would round up 12 million people and deport them, he replied, “Well, the answer is self-deportation."

And we wonder why the Republican Party achieved historically low levels of support among Latinos in 2012?

...I do not write this to single out Mitt Romney. He worked hard for a long time and his campaign was up against skilled opponents. But the sad fact is that the Republican Party for too long has failed to communicate to Latino Americans a positive vision for the future. Our slide among Asian Americans has been in the works for a generation.

I write this because as the current immigration debate heats up it is critical for us to recognize that words and attitudes really matter. Understanding what people hear matters. We may not mean to say what people hear we say. After decades in politics this is a lesson I have learned the hard way.

As a party, we simply cannot continue with immigration rhetoric that in 2012 became catastrophic-- in large part because it was not grounded in reality.

Senator Marco Rubio has done an important service cutting through some of the baloney with the observation that what we have now is de facto amnesty. It is reality. The 12 million people are here, living and working. Many of them are bound together by the web of human relations-- family, friends, neighbors-- and the American people will not support mass deportation.

That is the reality-- the starting point of the debate about what we, as a country, should do.

This does not mean we as Republicans should give up on our principles, or on the priority of securing the border.

It means we must recognize, as I tried to do in that primary debate, that politics is always an intersection of principles and people.

A party that appears to ignore people won’t get the chance to make the case for its principles-- any of them.
Of course, Newt's wasn't the only e-mail Wingnutia was reading at the end of last week. One of the big Tea Party groups sent their whole list-- and it must be very big because it includes me and the only thing I've ever had to do with the Tea Party was making fun of it-- some hero worship screed on racist Pennsylvania sophomore Lou Barletta. Where many conservatives, like Gingrich, are urging dealing with reality, the die hards refuse to let go of their prejudices and they know they have a kindred soul in Barletta. "If anyone in Congress is ready to lead the fight against illegal immigration," the letter began, "it’s Pennsylvania’s Lou Barletta. As a mayor and in one term as a congressman, Barletta has earned a reputation for being tough on immigrants here illegally. Many around the nation may be unaware of him and the work that he has done, but that may not be true much longer, as he is sure to be vocal in the fomenting debate over immigration reform."

The teabaggers and Know Nothings are disappointed with Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Eric Cantor (R-VA) for wanting compromise and they're congratulating Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) for their obstinence but it's Barletta they look to as the Moses of their holy jihad against reality.
[Then Mayor Barletta] enacted the Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance, which “would fine landlords who knowingly provided housing to illegal immigrants, fine employers who knowingly hired illegal immigrants, and make English the official language of Hazleton.” It was, however, struck down by multiple courts and thus has never been enforced.

Nevertheless, Barletta views illegal immigration as a national security, as it undoubtedly is. As a mayor trying to protect his citizens, he was determined to make Hazleton the toughest place in America for illegal immigrants. Ben Terris in National Journal claims that making the stopping of illegal immigration a top priority in the fight against crime doesn’t make much sense, since immigrants have lower rates of incarceration that native born citizens. He admits that this doesn’t separate legal immigrants from the illegal ones. And seeing as 27% of federal inmates were illegal immigrants during the period that the crimes occurred, while illegal immigrants only made up around 4% of the population, Terris’ objection is hard to take seriously.

Barletta’s tough stance is certainly one of the things that has helped him maintain the support of his constituents as he has gone from his position as mayor to becoming a congressman in 2010. When asking to be considered for a spot on the House Judiciary Committee, he emphasized his experience on the immigration issue, in the process pointing out that he is strong supporter of legal immigration and that the Latino population continued to grow even after the enactment of laws against illegal immigrants. He believes that legal immigrants are just as upset about illegal immigration as he is.

Barletta is certainly not taking his eye off the ball now, even with while Republican colleagues get behind a less strict plan. Of Rubio’s proposal he has said, “They are rushing to try and take this issue off the table, but they aren’t fixing the existing problems…. It’s sending a signal that there is a green light to come here illegally.” No should hope to see any plan rushing through Congress without the proverbial iron sharpening iron to make the solution as good as it can be. Anyone searching for a House Republican who won’t back from addressing illegal immigration in a tough manner need look no further than Congressman Lou Barletta.
Barletta is a supporter of legal immigration? Really? He was sued-- successfully-- by a Puerto Rican group-- who are as American as he is-- for discriminating against Puerto Ricans while he was mayor. I guess that's a detail the teabaggers just brush under their dirty little rug so they can make up their myths. And the truth about Barletta's disgraceful legacy in Hazleton isn't just that he wrecked the town's reputation but that he inadvertently made it a magnet for Latinos! The population of the town has increased-- by 2,000 people-- for the first time in 70 years. Most of them are Hispanics. In fact 37% of Hazleton is now Hispanic.
“They started buying cars and fixing houses so Lowe’s and other businesses started flourishing, and they started paying taxes to the city,” said Dr. Agapito Lopez, an opponent of the city’s immigration law.

As the population changed, so did relationships between the Latino and Anglo communities, compared to when the law was proposed.

“The feelings were so raw on both sides, and there was certainly a greater sense of mistrust than we see today,” Bob Curry said.

Curry heads an effort to build a youth center for the Hazleton Integration Project of city native and Major League Baseball manager Joe Maddon. More people donated money, Curry believes, and offered to volunteer for the center, which will serve children of all ethnicities, now than would have offered to help seven years ago during the fight about the law.

The fight reached its height on July 13, 2006, when people carrying flags and signs for and against the law filled council chambers, spilled onto the steps of City Hall and jammed sidewalks of North Church Street.

Coverage of the issue put Barletta and the city on CBS News’ 60 Minutes and CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight. Radio programs and newspaper articles spread stories about Hazleton’s law around the world.

Today, the fight continues in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia. While judges there ruled the law unconstitutional in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered them to reconsider the case in view of a decision upholding an Arizona law. Laws in both Hazleton and Arizona penalize employers who knowingly hire undocumented residents, whereas Hazleton’s law also would punish landlords for renting to undocumented tenants... Barletta said he is ready to challenge leaders of his own party who would offer legal status to undocumented residents, a policy that he calls amnesty.

Last week, Barletta, citing a Heritage Foundation report from 2007, said most undocumented Latinos have low skills and might not have graduated from high school. He believes they will support Democratic candidates, who promise social welfare programs, while Republicans led by Sen. John McCain said their party has to start courting the votes of Latinos with more lenient immigration policies.

Amilcar Arroyo, publisher of the Spanish language newspaper Molinegocios USA in Hazleton, said he will suggest that Barletta stop making comments like that about Latinos. “And he is a good friend of mine,” Arroyo added.

“The GOP party knows they have to be a little bit more open-minded,” Arroyo said. “The Latino electorate is growing. If they are more friendly, they can get a piece of the cake.”

Victor Perez of the Dominican House of Hazleton, a group that challenged Hazleton law, wonders if Barletta is stuck in the past.

“His mind is in the same time when he was fighting... We can’t continue in 2006. We don’t want to talk about that,” said Perez, who instead wants to discuss “what we can do to fix the problem.”

Perez said Dominican House leads classes that help legal immigrants earn citizenship. Tutors all have college degrees, and the class materials, offered in English and Spanish, include a quote from President Harry S. Truman, who said being an American is about more than knowing where you and your parents came from. “It is a belief that all men are created free and equal and that everyone deserves an even break.”

“If we are equal, why is Mr. Barletta talking like we are not equals?” Perez said.

He said he can understand why the federal government might want to deport “the bad apples,” but “what are you going to do with the millions of good apples?”

Franklin Rivera, interviewed downtown during a day off from a plastics plant where he works in the Humboldt Industrial Park, said people share the same ambitions regardless of their immigration status.

“There’s a lot of them working pretty much the same as us,” Rivera said.

He knows one undocumented worker, trained as a dentist, who lived in the state for 12 years and is scared to go out after work. He sends money to his home country.

Rivera questioned the wisdom of spending tax dollars to find and deport a worker like that, who, if given legal status, would pay taxes and invest more in America, Rivera said.

Those who work “under the table, get cash. The states don’t need that. Without the taxes, we don’t have cops, firemen,” he said.

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