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Bush Administration, Congress, Immigration

Congress is going to take another shot at a comprehensive immigration bill next week. This is mostly because President Bush wants them to. But no good will come of this, unless it’s a total revolt of the Right against Bush.

No sensible immigration bill can be written in the current political climate. There is way too much hysteria coming from the Right. As it says in an editorial in today’s New York Times:

Congress’s struggle with immigration reform has been a horror movie, with one false ending after another, and there is still no telling what the monster will look like when the lights finally come up. People who have been watching through their fingers are right to be worried; the bill was harsh and has gotten harsher, a reflection of the rigidity of those who have vowed to kill any reform they consider amnesty.

Republicans are playing immigration bill poker, upping the ante by tossing harsher and harsher amendment proposals into the pot.

Lindsey Graham, who has spoken movingly about the need for reasonable, decent treatment of immigrants, especially immigrant families, has been trying to take the debate back to the dark days of Representative Jim Sensenbrenner’s anti-immigrant bill, with an amendment that would turn people who overstay their visas into criminals subject to minimum 60-day prison sentences.

It seems likely that Mr. Graham, who is one of the “grand bargainers” and is up for re-election next year, has been burned by the uproar on the hard right and feels the need to act tough, lest he be saddled — as Representative Steve King of Iowa has urged — with the scarlet letter A, for amnesty.

Any comprehensive immigration bill written by the current Congress is likely to be a monstrosity that future congresses will have dismantle.

CNN reports that rightie bloggers are in maximum snit mode, which of course we all knew. Some of them are asking Congress to secure the borders first, before going on to other immigration measures. That might not be a bad idea. Although normally I’d advocate tackling an issue comprehensively, if that’s not possible now (and it isn’t) it would be better to bite of whatever piece of the bill Congress is able to chew. And rightie fantasies about the Open Borders Lobby aside, securing the borders is, in principle, something both parties can agree on.

How to secure the borders is another matter, of course. But even a stupid border security bill would be less damaging to the nation, long-term, than whatever legislative atrocity the comprehensive immigration bill is likely to become now.

Then, we can hope, in a little while the hysteria will die down and Dems will have a larger majority in Congress. And then maybe it will be possible to create an immigration policy that is not a reflection of our worst xenophobic impulses.

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19 Comments

  1. c u n d gulag  •  Jun 16, 2007 @9:55 am

    I hope nothing is done about our immigration problem in the present atmosphere.
    The Republican’s, by elevating the immigration problem in the past year for political purposes, have unleashed the Pandora’s Box of hate. They thought it would help them. Instead, it may bring them to ruin. They have seeded the clouds of hate. I would like to say, “Let it rain on them. Let it rain, let it rain, let in rain…”
    Except we may all drown in the storm they’ve unleashed.
    At a time when we need strong leadership on a tough issue, we have rabid wolves clamoring for more sheepherder measures. All the better to eat them, my dear’s…

  2. joanr16  •  Jun 16, 2007 @10:28 am

    I hope nothing is done about our immigration problem in the present atmosphere.

    I have to agree with c u n d gulag’s opinion. With so many crazies still in Congress (and not all Repugs; my state’s wooden-headed Ben Nelson is among them), it’s better to do nothing, lest we end up with our own Berlin Wall. (Fences keep folks in, as well as out, Ben you idiot.) It comes back to maha’s statement that we all want “border security,” but we have to be very, very careful how we go about it.

  3. Sachem  •  Jun 16, 2007 @10:38 am

    It’s been incredible to watch how upside down this debate has been. Watching Geraldo v Malkin on Bill O, Bill O actually slams dear Michelle for not outlining a plan.

    Meanwhile Trent Lott is bashing talk radio for being “a problem and “running America”.

    Fiore’s animation hordes redux takes this all the way back to Jamestown.

    I cannot remember a time when I agrees with Geraldo so completely, but to cave to propaganda on this issue doesn’t move it forward. It’s still not amnesty.

  4. A Canadian Reader  •  Jun 16, 2007 @11:55 am

    No offense, but if the Repugs want to tighten up the border, could they keep the guns out of Canada, while they’re at it?

  5. c u n d gulag  •  Jun 16, 2007 @12:55 pm

    Russia has enforced some harsh anti-immigrant legislation. Here are some of the results. They aren’t pretty…
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/14/world/europe/14market.html?ex=1334203200&en=d83f471ce9d07d52&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

    http://www.sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=20280

    I’m sure that there are people on the right who would stand and cheer this new policy if it were ours. They would egg on the police to arrest and deport more and more people.
    I don’t have the whole solution. But we currently have is better than indentured wage-slaves who can be deported at the drop of a hat.
    Part of the solution is fixing the problems in Mexico. NAFTA caused the hemorrhaging of jobs there that drives them here. Because the oligarch’s and corporatist’s in Mexico shipped the job’s that NAFTA seemed to offer for even cheaper labor than could be found in Mexico. They put profits before their own people. How American is that? Totally American – in the New Gilded Era of the last 30 years. Oh yeah, and in the old Gilded era, too…

  6. MikeShatzkin  •  Jun 16, 2007 @12:55 pm

    Maha, what border security do we and the Republicans “agree on”? I look at this border security thing as a complete red herring. It is about impossible to keep somebody who has family or friends already here and ready to help from actually getting in and overstaying.

    Can you give me an example of some border control measure that would accomplish anything signficant that we can “agree on”? I mean, are we going to “police” the entire Mexican border from east Texas to the Pacific? What a pot of corruption THAT would be!

  7. maha  •  Jun 16, 2007 @1:37 pm

    Mike — what I said is that there is agreement in principle that we should have better control of who is coming into the country. However, as I also said (do learn to read), how this is to be done is another matter. I’ve written about this in the past. Righties want the absurd fence; Democrats on the whole favor making use of technology. And no, border security measures by themselves may not make much difference. We do need comprehensive immigration and LABOR reform, but until people are ready to deal with this rationally let ’em argue about the borders and hope they don’t do anything too stupid to undo.

  8. MikeShatzkin  •  Jun 16, 2007 @2:18 pm

    Maha, sorry, but I don’t think you advanced the dialogue.

    What I am saying is that there IS no “how” to be done. (And I had read and mostly agreed with your other post.) The idea of using “technology” is really a little silly. We can do iris scans at the border checkposts, but the problem is with people who don’t come through the border checkposts.

    Dems sometimes propose silly or ineffective things to get “cover” (remember Clinton and Gore touting the v-chip as a way to let parents control their kids TV-watching and Clinton’s 3-strike law that was crafted so that it would cover about 6 crimes a century).

    Maybe this comes under the rubric of not doing anything too destructive and I’m totally with you on that. But, without any politicians around eavesdropping and, just between us chickens, what CAN we do to stop people who want to come across and settle in here from doing so? If you can come up with one idea that would be effective and not odious, it will be the first one I’ve heard. So far all the ideas seem to be both ineffective AND odious.

  9. c u n d gulag  •  Jun 16, 2007 @2:54 pm

    We are where we are. And I think we leave that alone. The situation will straighten itself out. It always has. Remember, the same vindictive lingo has been used here fo centuries.

    Here’s some thing’s that might help in the future:
    Stop free trade and start fair trade (the Chinese are about to flood the US market with cheap SUV’s built in Mexico so that they won’t be charged any tariff – more US auto workers will be out of work).

    Punish companies and management personell who don’t follow current laws with large fines and long jail time. These are the people who need to be in jails, not many of the poor ones in there now.

    Legalize drugs – that’ll NEVER happen. That’s stop the drug mules coming in.

    LONG jail term’s for coyote’s. American or Mexican.

    I need some help here please.

  10. maha  •  Jun 16, 2007 @3:00 pm

    We can do iris scans at the border checkposts, but the problem is with people who don’t come through the border checkposts.

    I think what the Dems have in mind is more along the lines of satellite surveillance, but that’s not the point. You are right that there’s nothing that’s going to work effectively. Again, that’s not the point. The point is mostly to give Congress something regarding immigration to argue about for the next 20 months or so.

    Being realistic, Congress is likely to pass some kind of border patrol policy if only because they are under so much pressure to do so. And you kow the Right will not rest until it has its fence. Once they get some damnfool notion like that in their heads they continue to work themselves up into various stages of hysteria until they get what they want. And if illegal immigrants can pass through the fence like water through paper towels, they won’t care. They will believe in the fence, just like they believe in the war in Iraq and supply-side economics. Effectiveness is not the point. It’s more of an idea of effectiveness they’re clinging to than effectiveness itself. Symbolic effectiveness, sort of.

    The trick is to get righties angry about stuff that isn’t all that important. Years ago they’d get themselves worked up about fluoridated water, for example. If they were to fixate on trivial shit, sane people could be left alone to run the government.

  11. c u n d gulag  •  Jun 16, 2007 @3:28 pm

    LOL – flouridated water!!!
    Remember their hatred of rock & roll and hula-hoop’s, back in the day?
    You’re on to something here Maha. Now we need to find a few stupid and trivial issues for them to sink their teeth into. Because once they do, they hold on to them like a pit bull on a femur.
    Any idea’s anyone? To the rightie post’s everyone. There’s bound to be some little piss-issue some troll is typing about with his cheeto-stained finger’s in mommy’s basement.
    I c… I can do this. I can… LGF, here I come!

    Aaaack! I can’t do it. I visited there once before and am scarred for life. I’d rather stick my private part’s in a blender and frappe them than go there again.
    We need a brave scout or two to infiltrate. Anyone who goes is far, far braver than I am…

  12. Greg  •  Jun 16, 2007 @5:23 pm

    A border fence could work, but not without adequate support of it. The same could be said of any system, including the current one. If there is a will to stop illegal immigration, then there is a way to do it. The trouble is that there is no will to do it.

  13. Swami  •  Jun 16, 2007 @10:16 pm

    A border fence could work, but not without adequate support of it.

    Not hardly.. It’s insanity to even consider it. Maybe if we formed a human chain around the entire perimeter of the continental United States and manned it around the clock, we might possibly reduce illegal immigration to a small degree,but it just won’t work. At best, it’s just another scheme to piss money away on nonsense, and appease stupid people.. And even more than that…it would stand as a monument to stupidity and impotence.

  14. MikeShatzkin  •  Jun 16, 2007 @10:30 pm

    Sorry Greg, a border fence could not “work”, unless your concept of “adequate support” is something far beyond anything we could reasonably undertake. (Sure if you stationed an armed guard every five feet for 1500 miles of border 24 hours a day, that would do it. Work out the logistics on that sometime…)

    The “will” required is related to the “threat” and to how this “will” wouild be applied. Look, if we simply machine-gunned a strip of land extending in five miles from the border 24 hours a day, that would probably do it. How do you like that idea? How many people do you think you could get to support it?

    This whole argument is ridiculous and a diversion from doing anything constructive. We will not “stop them at the border.” Nobody has ever made any proposal that would work; people only say that with enough will, etc., surely we can make it work. A fence is not a plan. It’s a boondoggle.

  15. Swami  •  Jun 16, 2007 @11:24 pm

    Hey, if they hurried and pass legislation to erect a fence..Home Depot is running a special on pressure treated stockade fencing. $ 9.95 for an 8×6 section.. and the 4×4 posts are less than $5.00 a piece..at that price we could fence from Baja California to the eastern side of Texas for less than 20 Billion dollars. What a deal, they better hurry!

  16. maha  •  Jun 17, 2007 @6:18 am

    The trouble is that there is no will to do it.

    A whole lot of employers are making bigger profits because they hire illegal aliens off the books. Some of those employers are federal contractors. Some of those employers have connections to politicians in Washington. So even if Congress decides to build the bleeping fence, the fence will be a purely symbolic gesture meant to placate the right-wing base. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the contractors use some illegal labor to build it.

  17. joanr16  •  Jun 17, 2007 @9:16 am

    Anybody who suggests “border fence” has the whiff of the East German Stasi about them, IMO. Run away from those people. Run fast, run far. At least until you hit their almighty “fence.”

  18. Steve from Canuckistan  •  Jun 18, 2007 @10:21 pm

    A lot of Canadians wish the US would “secure the borders” too and put a stop to all the illegal firearms smuggling into Ontario from New York state. I wonder if Lou Dobbs will get on that story?

  19. maha  •  Jun 19, 2007 @6:03 am

    Steve — Well, don’t blame New York. New York gets it guns from Virginia.

    If you find links to articles about gun running into Canada, do alert me to ’em, OK?

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