Friday, November 23, 2007



No illegal aliens could ever have been more aggressive, bloodthirsty and rapacious than the ones whose arrival we celebrated yesterday. Well, the ones most of us celebrated yesterday. Roland and I went to Jitlada, our favorite East Hollywood Thai joint and talked about the great food we'd soon be eating in our favorite restaurants in Thailand. We both had som tom, green papaya salad. My part of town is vibrant and alive with immigrants from Thailand, Armenia, Mexico, Central America, Iran, Russia, China and India. The richness of this non-Pilgrim America probably isn't something narrow-minded bigots like Tom Tancredo and Heath Shuler will ever experience or grasp.

This morning's NY Times has a weighty editorial about how our political class has failed the country in terms of putting together a cohesive and practical set of policies on immigration.
Asked if she supported Mr. Spitzer, Senator Hillary Clinton tied herself in knots looking for the safest answer.

The Republican presidential candidates, meanwhile, are doggedly out-toughing one another-- even Rudolph Giuliani, who once defended but now disowns the immigrants who pulled his hard-up city out of a ditch. A freshman Democratic representative, Heath Shuler of North Carolina, has submitted an enforcement bill bristling with border fencing and punishments. Representative Tom Tancredo, Republican of Colorado, for whom restricting immigration is the first, last and only issue, says he will not run again when his term expires next year. I have done all I can, he says, like some weary gunslinger covered in blood and dust.

The natural allies of immigrants have been cowed into mumbling or silent avoidance. The Democrats’ chief strategist, Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, went so far as to declare immigration the latest “third rail of American politics.” This profile in squeamishness was on full display at the Democratic presidential debate last week in Las Vegas, when Wolf Blitzer pressed the candidates for yes-or-no answers on driver’s licenses and Mrs. Clinton, to her great discredit, said no.

This year’s federal failure will not be undone until 2009 at the earliest, while states and local governments will continue doing their own thing, creating a mishmash of immigration policies, most of them harsh and shortsighted. But the wilderness of anger into which Mr. Tancredo helped lead America is not where the country has to be on this vitally important issue, nor where it truly is.

Foolishly, many Democrats are following Emanuel, Tancredo and the Republicans down the road to political perdition. Just weeks ago GOP attempts to drum up anti-immigration hysteria and use it against Democrats in local elections failed spectacularly. With the exception of the backward racist hotbed of bigotry known as Mississippi-- where the Democrat running for governor was following the Emanuel-Shuler playbook word for word-- the Republicans lost everywhere. Emanuel looked at the data-- the new local legislative majorities in Virginia and New Jersey, the new progressive governor in Kentucky-- and still insists anti-immigrant demagoguery is the only way to go.

Blue America and our allies have been working hard to inform Emanuel's constituents about his anti-immigrant activities, a cover for the "free" trade policies he has championed, policies that have been more harmful to the American middle class than any other misguided policy-- and there were plenty-- in the last two decades. Emanuel is the ugly face of NAFTA-- he was Bill Clinton's hatchet man forcing this inherently corporatist, Republican trade agenda down the throats of unwilling Democrats-- and today he is the Democrats' ugly face of anti-immigration policies that have helped make the GOP anathema to the fastest growing population in America. Whose side is Emanuel on? Good question-- although the answer has been obvious to me for many years.

Tuesday another kind of Illinois Democrat, a forthright, grassroots progressive, John Laesch, showed that there is hope for a movement among Democrats to topple reactionary, pro-war corporatist power-mongers like Emanuel from congressional power. Unlike most Democrats, Laesch, a union carpenter, is taking on immigration straight up. His campaign posted his ideas at Daily Kos. Laesch is battling extreme right wing xenophobic Republicans and an equally clueless Blue Dog Democrat, supported by Emanuel, to replace the retiring Denny Hastert. Laesch showed up at the World Relief Immigration Services office in downtown Aurora and called for right-wing loon Jim Oberweis "to take back his anti-immigrant and pro-national ID card message portrayed in a series of mailings and TV ads... 'The idea behind this advertising campaign is to make people so afraid of immigrants that they are willing to cede their civil liberties, the right to privacy and allow for a big-brother solution like a national ID card,' said Laesch."
John wrote his own blog on this issue at Fireside 14. He pointed out that the last four soldiers from this district to lose their life while serving our country were all of Hispanic heritage.

... Laesch also brought up his adversary in the primary, Democrat Bill Foster, who "in some ways even goes further than Mr. Oberweis’ proposal." Laesch noted that Foster’s plan wants all workers in the U.S.-- not just immigrants-- to carry national ID cards as proof of employment eligibility...

"These ads," said Laesch, "are designed to make people afraid by blaming immigrants and keep people distracted from the real issues like stagnating wages, unfair trade agreements, out of control healthcare costs and the war in Iraq." Laesch rejected the idea that any human being is illegal. "At the end of the day we may have different skin colors, different languages and different cultures, but we all belong to the human race. "

Oberweis and the Blue Dog Foster (along with Emanuel) are staunch "free" traders. Laesch is for fair trade.

The Times seems willing to be dragged along-- at least sooner than our completely corrupted political class-- the correct path. "Fixing immigration," the editors write today, "is not a yes-or-no question. It’s yes and no. Or if you prefer, no and yes-- no to more illegal immigration, to uncontrolled borders and to a flourishing underground economy where employer greed feeds off worker desperation. Yes to extending the blanket of law over the anonymous, undocumented population-- through fines and other penalties for breaking the nation’s laws and an orderly path to legal status and citizenship to those who qualify."

Unlike the Shuler/Tancredo bill that Emanuel is trying to shove down Democrats' throats the way he shoved NAFTA down their throats at the behest of Bill Clinton, serious legislators know immigration is a complex problem and comprehensive reform is what is needed, not political talking points that sound good on Fox or on Lou Dobbs' infotainment show. "It rests," according to the Times "on the idea that having an undocumented underclass does the country more harm than good."
This is not “open-borders amnesty,” a false label stuck on by those who want enforcement and nothing else. It’s tough on the border and on those who sneaked across it. It’s tough but fair to employers who need immigrant workers. It recognizes that American citizens should not have to compete for jobs with a desperate population frightened into accepting rock-bottom wages and working conditions. It makes a serious effort to fix legal immigration by creating an orderly future flow of legal workers.

Americans accept this approach. The National Immigration Forum has compiled nearly two dozen polls from 2007 alone that show Americans consistently favoring a combination of tough enforcement and earned legalization over just enforcement. Elections confirm this. Straight-talking moderates like Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico thrive in the immigration crucible along the southern border. Those who obsess about immigration as single-issue hard-liners, like the Arizonans J. D. Hayworth and Randy Graf, have disappeared, booted by voters. Voters in Virginia this month rejected similar candidates and handed control of the State Senate to Democrats.

...America is waiting for a leader to risk saying that the best answer is not the simplest one. As John Edwards said at the last debate, “When is our party going to show a little backbone and strength and courage and speak up for those people who have been left behind?”

He was talking about the poor and people without health insurance, but he could-- and should-- have included a host of others: Business owners who want to hire legal workers. Americans who don’t want their opportunities undermined by the off-the-books economy. Children whose dreams of education and advancement are thwarted by their parents’ hopeless immigration status. And the immigrants, here and abroad, who want to find their place in a society that once welcomed their honest labor, but can’t find a way to do it anymore.

Tomorrow I will look at a hotly contested congressional race where even one of Emanuel's favored candidates thinks he's full of malarkey and ought to keep his nose out of other peoples' races. I'll have time to do that because I'm boycotting Black Friday. If you decide to do the same-- or even partially do the same-- you can divert some of your money to help with the struggle against Emanuel's xenophobia by donating even a small amount to the Accountability Moment, which is purchasing full page newspaper ads (like the one on the left which you can click on to see larger) in Spanish, Polish and Korean newspapers in his congressional district.

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At 11:05 AM, Blogger cybermome said...

We talked a lot about immigration last night. The jumping off point was the food.I come from a long line of lefty foodies. Last night we had a Ebenshade turkey. Ebenshade is in Lancaster County...And its the oldest Turkey farm in the US AND family owned. People kvelled over the turkey. Except my daughter who ate tofu turkey...They are also local ( Allentown)I love love Thai food. I cook a lot of it because of my vegan daughter...Last night for Thanksgiving I made local organic sweet potatoes mashed up with coconut milk that had been cooked with lemongrass and a little fresh nutmeg.My vegan daughter made stuffing(or dressing as it was not cooked in bird)with short grain brown rice,carrots,celery,seitan and dates and apricots. There was not one morsel left.Even Marian the little old Jewish schizophrenic had second helpings..
I realized last night as we talked about immigration that there are no easy answers and its not a left or right issue. Its complicated and I really think that most Americans want some fair and humane policies.
Despite Tancredo and that cretin Shuler..


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