Saturday, February 05, 2011

Pander Bears

Senators Vitter and Graham (R-the South) have proposed a bill to repeal the 14th Amendment which grants citizenship to those born in the United States, regardless of the citizenship of their parents. Hector Tobar, columnist for the Los Angeles Times, thinks this is a terrible idea. The son of Guatemalans who "overstayed" their tourist visas takes it personally, as well he should. But his objections are based on more than personal interest. As he points out, we are a nation of immigrants, starting with the very first arrivals from Europe.

By now, the idea of the U.S. as a country of immigrants is so deeply ingrained that the Vitter-Rand constitutional amendment has no chance of passage. Many conservative leaders think it's a bad idea, including Mike Huckabee and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

Unfortunately, the recent history of the U.S. is filled with such divisive legislative crusades, from Proposition 187 in California in 1994 to last year's SB 1070 in Arizona, both of which were defanged by federal judges.

So why stir up a national debate with proposals that have little or no chance of becoming enforceable laws?

Because it's easier to scare people and make them angry than it is to fix anything.
[Emphasis added]

Neither senator apparently cares about the real immigration issues. All they are concerned with is establishing their bones with the latest iteration of their party's basest base. Keep the Tea Partiers all riled up and they'll keep turning out each election cycle. Huckleberry and Diaper Dave are just doing their part.

And that's unfortunate. We really do need to tackle the difficult issue of immigration, but the dog-and-pony-show approach is just impeding the real work that needs to be done. Hector Tobar knows this.

I happen to believe our immigration policy is a mess that needs fixing. The current free-for-all of illegal crossing and off-the-books hiring demeans and exploits immigrants and undermines the rule of law. Its chief beneficiaries are stingy employers and criminal smugglers.

But proposing radical legislation that attempts to overturn sacred American precepts of justice and compassion while playing on misguided fears isn't going to get us anywhere. And it leaves millions of people with immigrant roots feeling insulted.

Given the changing demographics of this nation of immigrants, that insult could be devastating for the Republican Party in the future. Apparently that doesn't matter to Lindsay and Vitter. They're too busy drinking the tea.

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