Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Monday, March 27, 2006
The first Hispanic president?
Even as Texas governor, George W. Bush has long had a special interest in the issue of immigration -- particularly Mexican immigration. Call it a sop to big agribusinesses, the restaurant lobby or to rich GOPers who want their nannies and lawn boys cheap and available, or a kiss-up to Hispanic voters, but you've got to admit this is one of Dubya's signature issues. The only thing that's surprising about the present immigration controversy is that Bush's supporters are surprised. So when Mr. Bush says things like this:
“A temporary guest worker program is vital to securing our border. By creating a separate legal channel for those entering America to do an honest day’s labor, we would dramatically reduce the number of people trying to sneak back and forth across the border...”
It should sound to his base like just what they voted for... Unfortunately for them, and for Mr. Bush, the base is apparently quite surprised, and most unpleasantly so.

The facts staring Mr. Bush and his party in the face are pretty stark (from the same FT link as above):
According to the Pew Hispanic Research Centre, about 7.2m of these [11 million estimated] unauthorised migrants were employed, representing 4.9 per cent of the work force. They accounted for 24 per cent of farm jobs, 17 per cent of cleaning work, and 27 per cent of butchery jobs. Mr Bush noted many foreign workers “fill the jobs that Americans are unwilling to do.”

Since 2000, the report found, the growth in the unauthorized population had averaged 500,000 per year. In 2005, Mexican migrants represented 56 per cent of the total unauthorized population in the US. Later this week Mr Bush will meet Vicente Fox, President of Mexico, in Cancun, where immigration tensions will be discussed.

“About 85 per cent of the illegal immigrants are from Mexico and most are sent back home within 24 hours,” said Mr Bush, discussing US efforts to tighten border security
By the way, that means that 3.8 million are not employed, meaning they are either unemployed, disabled, stay-home caretakers, or children, who then would be part of the U.S. education system. All would be part of the U.S. healthcare system, particularly at the emergency room level. And many are collecting Medicaid, food stamps and other benefits. See the problem?

To the headlines:

Following a weekend of unbelievably huge anti immigration control marches in the Western U.S. (think it might have been better P.R. to carry American, rather than Mexican flags...?) Congress ramps up its attempts to save the electoral skins of incumbent members get ahead of the immigration issue, with a flurry of bills, each purporting to be tougher than the last. To sum up:

Senate:
McCain/Kennedy (odd pairing for a guy who wants to be president...): guest worker program, path to citizenship or permanent residency...

Frist - ENFORCEMENT! Fence the border! Criminal penalties! And please, please, sweet Jesus give me a shot at getting these right wing loons ... I mean good, loyal Americans ... to give me the GOP nomination in 2008!!! ... Oh, and increase the number of "employment based" (EB) visas handed out each year by more than 100 percent, from 140,000 per year to 290,000... guests workers by any other name...

Specter (seeking to get a bill out of the Judiciary Committee, in part to preserve its sovereignty) -- document the illegal migrants who are already here, background check them, impose a fine and let them stay. Sepcter's approach has been dubbed "March madness" by Tom "the Scourge" Tancredo...

In the House:
Sensenbrenner-King: make employers, aiders and abettors of illegal migration legally culpable, make illegal immigration ... well ... illegal (a felony to be exact) and step up border security and enforcement, and make it tougher to emigrate to the U.S.

Notice a trend? The only non-Republican sponsoring a bill on immigration is Edward Kennedy, who most decidedly ain't running for president. So why is the GOP kicking up dirt that can only wind up in its own eyes? (Think those 500,000 Angelinos are going to vote Republican? Claro que NO! And the Hillary Jesus gambit was more a piece of political theater than a real attempt to dig into this debate, if you ask me, and lefty immigration advocates who claim she hasn't really been there for them...)

The bottom line for the GOP is that they really can't win for losing. If the tougher versions like Sensennbrenner, married to Frist, pass, then they've created a Prop 187 problem for themselves (the unpopular anti-immigrant measures passed in California, that turned tens of thousands of non-voting Hispanics into angry, voting Democrats). If they get their way on quasi-amnesty, as the president wants, the Democratic unions will rush in and start signing up los nuevos trabajadores legales faster than you can say andele! And either way, some part of the base will be angry (the Hispanics Bush is courting or the Lou Dobbs old guard conservatives -- who make an excellent point about a country unable to control its borders being unable to control much else -- not to mention the Tom Tancredo wackadoo types...)

Tags: Bush, Current Affairs, Politics, Immigration, Illegal Aliens, , Border Security,
posted by JReid @ 2:45 PM  
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