Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Playing Both Sides

The "center-left" editorial board of the Los Angeles Times surprised me this morning with its latest offering in which Meg Whitman is excoriated not so much for hiring and then firing her undocumented housekeeper, but for not taking a principled stand on the "thorny" issues surrounding immigration reform.

...we can't help believing that Whitman's decision reflects her unwillingness, both personally and as a matter of public policy, to deal with the thorniest aspect of the immigration problem, which is what to do with the 11 million illegal immigrants who are already here (including about 2.5 million in California). In reality, there are only two principled solutions: commit to deporting them all or integrate them into society. Whitman, it seems, can't bring herself to back either approach.

Admittedly, she is in a tough spot. She is fervently pro-business, and California's $36-billion agriculture industry is pushing for a pathway to legalization for its workers. She needs the votes of Latinos, who more than any group in the state favor immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship, and she needs her base, which is equally opposed to such a development.

That may be why Whitman's positions on illegal immigration lack coherence and internal logic. To court the Latino vote, she trumpets her opposition to Proposition 187, a 1994 law that would have prohibited illegal immigrants from accessing most public services, but when called on to take a moral stand on it 16 years ago, she didn't vote. She supports the now infamous SB 1070 in Arizona — but only for Arizona.

This is political expediency, not leadership. ...

The Los Angeles Times has already endorsed Whitman's opponent for governor, so in a sense, the editorial is a justification for that endorsement. However, the editorial also raises a very real issue with respect to not only Ms. Whitman, but also most politicians on the issue who have ducked any kind of meaningful discourse on the very pressing need for immigration reform.

President Obama promised immigration reform during his campaign, but he has yet to deliver. Senate Majority Leader Reid promised immigration reform, but he backed down quickly when he discovered he would have a tough fight for re-election. Proposals for pathways to citizenship for those already here were withdrawn from consideration from both houses as the rhetoric heated up, thereby increasing the raising the heat even further in Congress and the state legislatures.

Meg Whitman serves as the poster child for all the cowards who refuse to face their responsibility for dealing with the issue, which serves to remind all of us that we too have an obligation. We keep electing these yahoos expecting them to do what they promised, yet we fail to follow-up and put their feet to the fire until they do. This certainly doesn't say much for our putative democracy, which, given the fact that we are a nation of immigrants, is tragically sad.



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