Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Republican Anti-Immigration Filibuster Is Defeated 82-15. What's Next?


Will the immigration reform battle sink any of these ships?

Yesterday just over a dozen motley racists-- all Republicans-- voted against shutting down Jefferson Beauregard Session III's filibuster of the comprehensive immigration bill. These were the 15 bigots:
John Barrasso (R-WY)
John Boozman (R-AR)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
Mark Kirk (R-IL)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Jim Risch (R-ID)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Tim Scott (R-SC)
Jefferson B. Sessions III (KKK-AL)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
David Vitter (R-LA)
That's the good news. But it's not the end of the story... not even in the Senate. The Republicans have all kinds of tricks up their collective sleeves to water down and derail the bill. Miss McConnell was one of the Republican senators who voted to shut down the filibuster, but he warned not to interpret that as meaning he favors meaningful immigration reform. He doesn't. "As an elected leader in my party," McConnell lisped just before the vote, "it’s my view that we at least need to try to improve a situation that as far as I can tell very few people believe is working well either for our own citizens, or for those around the world who aspire to become Americans. I’ll vote to debate it and for the opportunity to amend it, but in the days ahead there will need to be major changes to this bill if it’s going to become law." John Cornyn voted "yes" as well-- and he has a poison pill in the works he hopes will derail the whole bill by requiring significantly higher thresholds of border control before the bill’s “trigger” kicks in allowing undocumented immigrants to move toward citizenship.

Marco Rubio, a GOP presidential aspirant who has been taking a bad beating from the party's Know Nothing base, helped write the bill but is now trying to be seen by the Know Nothings as being against it (while he courts Latino voters and hopes they see him in their corner; the guy's a mess). He is being given the credit for getting Mark Kirk, usually viewed as a mainstream conservative, to vote with the extremists and racists against the bill yesterday. He tried the same thing with Kelly Ayotte, who rebuffed his clownish efforts. His latest trick is to offer an amendment that requires immigrants speak English before they even get permanent residency, quite the departure from American history and traditions.

I lived overseas for almost seven years after college, and for nearly four of those years I worked at the Kosmos, an international youth and meditation center in Amsterdam. The Kosmos was a virtual Tower of Babel. People weren't just speaking Dutch, they were speaking English, German, French, Italian, 4 different Scandinavian languages, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Arabic and Chinese. Luckily for Americans, English was the official lingua franca of the establishment, the one common language everyone used to communicating with everyone else outside of their own group. Whew!

But over the course of my stay in Amsterdam and my travels through Europe, Africa and Asia, I noticed something else about language. Americans-- and only Americans (so not Canadians or Brits)-- would get uptight when other people spoke their native language, sometimes really uptight. It was no big deal for German's to hear people speaking French or Spanish or even for Dutch people-- and it was, after all, their country-- to hear everyone speaking English. But Americans... it was scary. There was a tendency for Americans to get paranoid and be freaked out when they heard other languages. And these were the hippest Americans there were, traveling overland to India or hanging around a meditation center in Holland. There was this predilection for Americans to imagine that if they heard another language, it meant people were talking about them-- or even plotting against them!

Friends of mine in Congress have told me that many Republicans there often brag about having never traveled overseas or even owning a passport... or of even eating "foreign" food. Webster's has a simple definition of xenophobia: "fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign." It's a concept that has found a home in the right-wing psyche and the Republican party worldview. I wonder if Marco Rubio's family spoke English when they fled the right-wing dictatorship of fascist General Fulgencio Batista in 1956 and shoved to the front of the immigration line, settling in Florida. Anti-immigration wing-nut Ted Cruz is also the son of an immigrant. His father, Rafael, fought in Fidel Castro's peasant army that overthrew Batista and later escaped to the U.S. in 1957 with a hundred dollar bill sewn into is underwear. (He became a citizen in 2005.)

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