On immigration, redemption for W?

Every so often, a national issue — in this case, immigration reform — has huge ramifications locally here in the North Country.

Over the last decade, dairy farms across the region have turned more and more to undocumented workers to keep their operations going.

The labor shortage in agriculture, and the need for some kind of accord that allows more foreign workers to enter the US legally, became a major issue in the 21st district congressional race.  (Remember Donald Hassig’s call to toss the bums out?)

It happens that immigration reform is also moving to the center of the debate over how Republicans can revive their political fortunes.  Far from our part of the country, rapidly-shifting demographics are forcing the GOP to rethink their relationship to Hispanic voters.

The New Yorker has a fascinating article pointing to the fact that the Republican Party’s biggest “red” state — I’m referring, of course, to Texas — is moving rapidly toward a future where black, white and Asian Americans will be minorities, while Hispanics will be the majority population.

Unless conservative politicians can appeal better to that community, their future appears increasingly bleak.

“If Texas is bright blue, [Republican presidential candidates] can’t get to two-seventy electoral votes,” newly elected Republican Senator Ted Cruz told the magazine.

“The Republican Party would cease to exist. We would become like the Whig Party. Our kids and grandkids would study how this used to be a national political party. ‘They had Conventions, they nominated Presidential candidates. They don’t exist anymore.’ ”

Conservatives in Texas are leading the party back toward some kind of immigration reform effort, pushing for guest worker programs, and attempting to de-emphasize the kind of “big fence” and “self-deportation” initiatives that have made the GOP so unpopular among Hispanics.

But the GOP clearly needs a leader with the gravitas and credibility to shape the party’s future thinking on immigration, someone popular enough in white rural America to shift the deeply-rooted tea party aversion to comprehensive reform.

I wonder if that person might not be George W. Bush.

Bush is currently languishing in the political wilderness and is widely disliked by Americans for his handling of the economy and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  He was invisible during the 2012 campaign.

But Bush had a stellar record when it came to outreach to and relations with the Hispanic community.  In 2004, Bush captured 44% of the Hispanic vote.

Mitt Romney’s support from that community — which has grown significantly over the the last decade — had plummeted to under 30%.

That collapse of appeal is unsurprising.  Romney used an anti-immigrant posture to appeal to his party’s far-right wing, as he fought to secure the nomination.

By contrast, Bush’s approach included supporting bi-lingual education, backing a road to citizenship for undocumented workers and making sure that basic government services are provided to foreign laborers.

During his second term in the White House, he pushed for a comprehensive immigration reform measure.

White conservatives in his party shot the measure down, attacking the idea of “amnesty” for “illegal aliens” with rhetoric that was often venomous.  If not racist, then xenophobic.

But it is Bush’s position which now appears not only practical and pragmatic, but also politically prescient.  The former Texas governor understood that there was — and is — no holding back the demographic tide.

It appears that the growing Hispanic population has already put New Mexico and Nevada out of reach for Republican presidential contenders.  Arizona may not be far behind.

So perhaps it’s time for the former president to emerge from political exile to offer his party much-needed leadership on this issue.

Bush still has plenty of credibility on the small-town “street” in America, and he is largely immune to attacks from right-wing shouters like Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage.

Helping the GOP get right with the new, modern America would be a major accomplishment for Bush, one that might restore a significant part of his political legitimacy and give him a more enduring legacy.

It would also be a major boon for the workers and farmers in places like the North Country who are currently struggling to survive in a gray-market economy that turns far too many hard-working people into criminals.

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72 Comments on “On immigration, redemption for W?”

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  1. Two Cents says:

    Another reason to dislike Bush , as far as i’m concerned.

  2. Peter Hahn says:

    Or his brother Jeb

  3. Verplanck says:

    That’s all based on the idea that the guy wants to be back in the public eye. To date, he has had zero interest in that.

  4. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Ugh! How can we be expected to forget the guy when people keep bringing up his name?

  5. The Original Larry says:

    “Bush is currently languishing in the political wilderness and is widely disliked by Americans for his handling of the economy and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

    It has less to do with how he handled the economy and the wars (if it did, Obama would never have been re-elected) than it does with the perception amongst liberals that he somehow “stole” the 2000 election from Gore. Of course, that begs the question of how he got re-elected, but that’s another story. Bottom line, many liberals will never give Bush credit for anything because they just can’t get over the fact that he beat Gore and then compounded it by beating Kerry.

  6. Peter Hahn says:

    Larry – Liberals dont like Bush for lots of reasons and never have. That has nothing to do with why the rest of the country doesnt think much of him now.

    But… he was correct (for political/demographic reasons if nothing else) to push for immigration reform then, and he could do it now. There are also several other Bush relatives that would be well positioned to do it too. As well as Marco Rubio and the new Ted Cruz. (Rubio means, ironically, blonde)

  7. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Larry, I don’t blame Bush for the 2000 or 2004 elections. I blame Gore and Kerry for being big stiff dopes much like Mitt Romney.

  8. PNElba says:

    …largely immune to attacks from right-wing shouters like Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage.

    I don’t listen to either of those guys. But do they even bring up Bush’s name?

  9. Mervel says:

    G. Bush was on the right track when it came to immigration, I don’t know though if as said above he would have major interest in taking that on right now? Maybe? The other person to watch is Jeb Bush’s son, George Prescott Garnica Bush, who is Hispanic and speaks Spanish. I think he is currently living in Austin Texas.

    But it is as Brian says a very interesting article.

  10. Paul says:

    I like Chuck’s idea:

    “promise amnesty right up front. Secure the border with guaranteed legalization to follow on the day the four border-state governors affirm that illegal immigration has slowed to a trickle.”


    Problem solved.

  11. dave says:

    Larry, that 2000 election is certainly a sore spot… but most liberals I know are not upset with W because he was named winner. They are upset with the conservative fringe of the supreme court and with Ralph Nader – in that order.

    No, the reason liberals dislike George W. Bush has EVERYTHING to do with what he did once elected. He squander the peace and prosperity he inherited and drove the country into a ditch… economically and geopolitically. Hard to feel warm and fuzzy about a guy who did that.

    You will have to excuse us if we have trouble looking past the great recession and 2 wars to give him credit over having nice ideas on immigration.

  12. hermit thrush says:

    It has less to do with how he handled the economy and the wars… than it does with the perception amongst liberals that he somehow “stole” the 2000 election from Gore.

    would that liberals had that kind of power!

  13. Rancid Crabtree says:

    I don’t particularly care for Bush one way or the other but illegal aliens are another issue altogether. They are criminals. We apparently need them though so we either need to come up with easy to obtain worker visas and a solid fence or round them all up and deport them and build a solid fence. Seems to me the first option is simpler, but I don’t see anyone working towards that at all. I do see people trying to make these criminals citizens. Is that really what we want? Reagan tried that, it failed. Reports say most of them don’t want to be citizens, they just want a job. Since they are willing to take jobs our decadent Americans won’t and will work hard at that it seems we should be working on that easy to obtain visa.

    So why aren’t we?

  14. Pete Klein says:

    I don’t see the southern border ever being secure unless Mexico becomes as economically advanced as Canada.
    This should be a goal of ours.
    It would also help if we stopped the stupid war on drugs.
    P.S. If the Republicans think they can win the Spanish vote by nominating people with Spanish names or some Spanish blood, they will be in for a big surprise.
    Nominating a Catholic to run with Mitt didn’t win the Catholic vote.
    Stop thinking you can define a person’s views by race, creed or color. This is so two centuries ago.

  15. Peter Hahn says:

    Rancid – they are not criminals.

  16. Mervel says:

    We have open borders with Canada and Mexico. A Canadian can come to the US and we can go to Mexico and Mexicans can come to the US. Even if we had a some sort of huge secure “fence”, any Mexicans and Canadians could still legally travel to the US. The problem comes when they stay too long and get hired in a job or they are criminals trying to smuggle things.

    Our economy includes reliance on a variety of legal and non-legal individuals who are not citizens. But we have numerous work programs for non-citizens, I think we could just increase those and make it easier.

    The other issue is criminal activity. As Mexico gets it’s house in order, if it ever does that activity should decrease. Legalizing Pot in the US will help, but Mexican Cartels are criminal gangs that will simply move to the next activity, be it more heroin or human trafficking/slavery or kidnapping. But the problem is solvable. Even with these levels of criminality the Mexican economy is expanding when compared to other Latin American Countries. It can only be good for the US if Mexico becomes a better more functioning country and they have the potential to do so.

    As pointed out in the article however, a good portion of the Hispanic individuals living in Texas were there before non-Hispanics moved in. Spain held Texas first, then Mexico, then Texas rebelled against Mexico who was rebelling? It was largely people who spoke Spanish they were the first Texans.

    Republicans could make inroads with this community but not with talk of fences and illegals etc.

  17. Peter Hahn says:

    Only half the illegal immigrants are from latin america. The rest are from asia africa and europe. Just being here illegally or staying past your visa expiration is NOT a criminal offense. This is a common misconception.

  18. Peter Hahn says:

    The vast majority are hard working responsible individuals contributing to the well-being of the USA. They will be valuable citizens just as other immigrants have been.

  19. mervel says:

    Its true. We will know when we really are going down as a country when no one wants to come here anymore. We may be reaching that point, immigration both legal and illegal has fallen drastically in the past 5 years.

  20. Rancid Crabtree says:

    If they are ILLEGAL ALIENS they are CRIMINALS. We aren’t talking about the people on expired visas Peter, we’re talking about Mexicans, Hondurans, Guatemalans, etc. that entered the country illegally and remained illegally. That is a criminal act, it makes them criminals.

    These hard working allegedly responsible individuals aren’t paying taxes, often do not carry insurance on the vehicles they drive, are responsible for a growing amount of crime, are a burden on the health care industry, schools, public housing and welfare system in many places. Lets not make them out to be saints. They are just people and like any other person they should enter legally and obey our laws, rules and regulations.

    As far as all those people on expired visas, hunt them down and deport them or have them post a bond in order to remain. How many are actually terrorists? We don’t even keep track of these people. It’s shameful.

  21. Peter Hahn says:

    Rancid – you are an example of the problem Republican politicians have. They have been exploiting your ethnic fear and hostility for years, and it is no surprise that ethnic minorities – who are now almost the majority – dont trust republicans.

    Most illegals are much more law abiding than legal residents or citizens. They risk being deported just for being noticed.

    Being in the country illegally is no more a crime than driving without a drivers license. It is illegal, but not criminal. It is a violation of civil law, but not criminal law. We could make it a crime, like we could make driving with an expired drivers license a crime, but we have not done so.

  22. mervel says:

    Also the remedies proposed would largely impact US citizens who have to put up with increased harassment from local law enforcement untrained and unskilled. None of us can prove we are a citizen at a traffic stop. A drivers license is not proof of citizenship, so what happens? Well brown Spanish speaking people who are citizens get sent to detention centers ( a whole different shame on this country), until they can prove their citizenship.

    No, its not the way to go regardless of if we are Republican or not, it is not moral and morality must always trump our politics.

  23. Paul says:

    There is some myth (not sure where it came from) that the US has had some kind of open door to immigrants in the past. I think it is much easier now than it was in the past to get into the US from another country. Look at Ellis Island. All you had to do was look a little funny when you got off the boat and you were put back on. Since we currently don’t offer things like health care and SS to everyone here in the US it isn’t as big a challenge. Once folks are competing for those limited resources things will change. I have said here before it was interesting when I lived in France. There they really hate immigrants who are trying to steal their benefits. Hope we are not headed there.

  24. mervel says:

    We have the most open immigration policy of any advanced Democracy. But that is a good thing. I mean the Japanese have a immigration policy that says in writing their goal is racial homogeneity, Japanese only please. The Europeans are members of their little racial groups, even if you DO get into France, unless you are a white person of Gaulic descent you will never truly be French, you will be an African living in France who happens to hold French citizenship. That is why we are different, that is why immigration is important to the US, we are not a race we are an idea.

  25. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Maybe true, but the right amount of money always made things easier, whatever the country. For instance, here, first or second class passengers didn’t go to Ellis Island. That was reserved for steerage passengers. Before Ellis Island days pretty much anyone who had a boat could float over and find an empty spot to steal from some Indian. Somewhere in some alternate Universe the Indian tribes all decided to kill every explorer that landed on North American shores and take all their stuff and they get to fight among themselves about who gets to hunt or plant and where they get to do it.

    Some people never moved to this country, the best example are Indians and Eskimos or Inuit and Native Americans or whatever the PC terms are. Then there are the Hawaiians and Puerto Ricans, the people living in New Orleans or St Louis at the time of the Louisiana Purchase, and plenty of those darned Mexicans who lived in what became various western states including Texas.

    And speaking of Texas, maybe we can beat the secessionists to the punch and sell it back to Mexico for $16 trillion and have done with two big problems at once. Three if you count W.

  26. tootightmike says:

    If there’s a criminal running loose in Texas his name is Bush. He and his henchmen should have been brought up on war crimes charges…but Obama has been too polite. I suspect that George W”s true views in immigration come from his life on the ranch…”I wish I could get someone to shovel up this dang poop.”
    We have created an economy that attracts workers. This should be good, but we have done so, far too often, at the expense of the rest of the world, and this is bad.

  27. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Yo Peter, you’re wrong guy. Illegal Aliens are criminals, not civil violators- Section 1325 in Title 8 of the United States Code, “Improper entry of alien”, provides for a fine, imprisonment, or both for any immigrant who:[39]

    enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration agents, or
    eludes examination or inspection by immigration agents, or
    attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact.

    The maximum prison term is 6 months for the first offense and 2 years for any subsequent offense. In addition to the above criminal fines and penalties, civil fines may also be imposed.

    That’s definitely criminal charges, no two ways about it. As far as your claim that, “Most illegals are much more law abiding than legal residents or citizens. They risk being deported just for being noticed.”, the stats don’t back you up there either. A simple google search will find you all the info you need. Here’s an excerpt from Wiki- “A US Justice Department report from 2009 indicated that one of the largest street gangs in the United States, Los Angeles-based 18th Street gang, has a membership of some 30,000 to 50,000 with 80% of them being illegal aliens from Mexico and Central America. Active in 44 cities in 20 states, its main source of income is street-level distribution of cocaine and marijuana and, to a lesser extent, heroin and methamphetamine. Gang members also commit assault, auto theft, carjacking, drive-by shootings, extortion, homicide, identification fraud, and robbery.[117]”

    I think you’ve bought into the myth of the sainted illegal immigrant. Myself, I figure if my folks could enter legally, so can these people. Otherwise, kick them out. There is no excuse for illegal immigration, none.

  28. Paul says:

    “Some people never moved to this country, the best example are Indians and Eskimos or Inuit and Native Americans or whatever the PC terms are.”

    Knuck of course they moved here. They just moved here a long time ago.

  29. Peter Hahn says:

    Arlo – It is not a criminal offense to be here illegally. It is a criminal offense to get caught sneaking into the country. Presumably many illegal aliens committed a minor criminal offense many years ago. That doesnt make them “criminals” any more than your kids who shoplifted candy from a store are criminals.

    Yes there are illegal immigrants in street gangs. There are also many US citizens in street gangs. The question you want to ask is whether or not illegal immigrants are in committing crimes at a higher rate than legal immigrants or citizens. If you recall, the Mafia is composed of Sicilian immigrants and the Russian mafia and the Israeli mafia etc.

    What you are saying is that Ilegal immigrants are all or mostly criminals, which in the normal English usage of the term is a false statement. Some illegal aliens are criminals. Bernie Madoff is a criminal. That doesnt make all rich white guys criminals, even though most criminals are white guys.

  30. Peter Hahn says:

    Paul – they are moving in again. Most of the illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America are Native Americans who speak Spanish as a second language. They speak Zapotec if they are from southern Mexico or various Mayan languages if from Guatemala.

  31. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Peter, you aren’t going to make it a non-crimimal offense no matter how much you try. If you enter the country illegally and remain, you are still a criminal! You’ve committed the crime. What you are saying is that if you murder someone and don’t get caught at the scene you aren’t a criminal. That’s ludicrous. As far as your kid that shoplifts candy, no they may not be criminals because of age, but shoplifting is still a crime and if you know they took the candy and did nothing about it then you are guilty of facilitating a crime and endangering the welfare of a minor. Petit Larceny is still Petit Larceny and it’s still a Misdemeanor which is a crime. I don’t know where you’re getting these ideas.

    As far as you allegations that I’m saying most or all illegal aliens are criminals, or rather engaged in criminal activity, you’re wrong again. You made the very clear statement that “Most illegals are much more law abiding than legal residents or citizens.” which is another whopper. I pointed out that the stats do not back your claim and provided one area where as many a 80% of the problem children are illegals. If you can find any stats that back your claims that most illegals are much more law abiding than legal residents or citizens, please provide them. I will agree agree most illegals avoid contact with police, but that’s not the same as being law abiding at all.

    No one in the western hemisphere is truly native to the area. All groups emigrated from Asia.

  32. Peter Hahn says:

    No Arlo – the flaw in your logic is that simply committing a minor crime in the past does not make one a criminal. For example, smoking or possessing marijuana is a crime. Many Americans, including the past 3 presidents have used illegal drugs, a much more serious “crime” than entering the country illegally. But… It would be wrong to refer to those presidents or the millions and millions of Americans who have used illegal drugs as criminals, even though they all committed crimes. Committing murder in the past makes one a murderer whether or not you are caught.

    When you refer to members of specific ethnic group as criminals, ALL ethnic minorities, here legally or as citizens, are offended. Thats why 70% of “hispanics” voted for Obama, even though all are US citizens.

    As far as stats go, there arent many good ones. The people who obsess about crime by illegal aliens are mostly ax-grinding xenophobes.

  33. Peter Hahn says:

    from University of California “As Table 1 shows, 3 percent of the 45.2 million males age 18-39 were in federal or state prisons or local jails at the time of the 2000 census (a total of over 1.3 million, coinciding with official prison statistics). However, the incarceration rate of the U.S.-born (3.51 percent) was five times the rate of the foreign-born (0.68 percent). The latter was less than half the 1.71 percent rate for non-Hispanic white natives, and seventeen times less than the 11.6 percent incarceration rate for native black men”

    When you control for age and sex, foreign born Latin American ethnic groups have a far lower incarceration rate than native born white non-hispanics. 18 – 39 year old Mexican born men are incarcerated at a rate of 0.7%, whereas the same age group for native born white non-hispanics is 1.7%

  34. Peter Hahn says:

    Those are the facts. you dont have to like them I guess.

  35. Walker says:

    No, a lot of folks aren’t really fond of facts. Is there a proper term for factophobes?

    (Actually, “factophobia” gets 3,670 hits on Google. It is, of course, an epithet hurled at either end of the political spectrum.)

  36. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    No Paul. They were here before here was here.

  37. Kathy says:

    Most illegals are much more law abiding than legal residents or citizens

    Peter, if they are law abiding, why are they illegal?

  38. Kathy says:

    … you are an example of the problem Republican politicians have. They have been exploiting your ethnic fear and hostility for years.

    Why is it when someone wishes to uphold the federal law, are they labeled?

  39. Peter Hahn says:

    Kathy – they used to be called undocumented but you guys wanted to call them illegals. It’s marketing. And it’s exploiting people’s fear for political gain. Ethnic politics are exploited all over the world. Half the recent wars are either ethnic or religious (or both).

  40. mervel says:

    Peter do those figures count the number of people we are holding in “detention camps” ?

  41. The Original Larry says:

    Where is it written that we must throw open our doors and accept all immigrants under any circumstances and without regard for our laws, customs or ability to absorb them? That was never the case and it certainly shouldn’t be the case now. And by the way, it was not so long ago that I was lectured on how nobody wants to come here anymore and how Europe is now the preferred destination of immigrants. If so, why all the fuss about immigration into the US?

  42. Peter Hahn says:

    Marvel – that does not count the detention camps where they put people on the way to being deported. Most of those are prisons though.

  43. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I don’t know why every wrong headed crackpot who happened to be born within our borders gets to be a citizen when there are so many hard working, entrepreneurial people who are born elsewhere who would make such god citizens.

    Seriously, though, immigration is the underlying strength of this country. It’s like Lance Armstrong with his blood doping. All that fresh blood coming in makes us unbeatable.

  44. mervel says:

    We do need it, just like Lance. But we do need to enforce our law and we do need to do it legally and with order. I think part of the issue is, what does that take? What does it take to enforce our immigration law, to guard our borders to administer our work visa programs etc? It takes a government. We have increased our investment in this recently and it is paying off.

    Of course the Republicans problem is that they need to attract the vast majority of Hispanics in this country who are LEGAL residents and citizens. As long as Hispanics hear this continual whining about Hispanic people being illegal they will not vote for Republicans even if they agree with them on other issues, it is a point of respect and self protection, local law enforcement is not qualified to enforce immigration law and Hispanics in the US know that. George Bush knew that, that is how he got 50% of the Hispanic vote, unlike Romney who got under 30%.

  45. mervel says:

    I have not heard anyone on this thread yet complain about the sleazy borderline terrorists who are Irish who are still hiding out in this country. Oh no in that case lets hoist a pint and laugh about it, but when it comes to someone with darker skin well then we need detention centers for them and their children.

  46. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    No Peter, smoking or possessing marijuana in small amounts isn’t a crime in NYS. It’s a Violation. A Crime is a Misdemeanor or Felony. As far as our coke snorting Prez, yes, he’s a criminal. Just because he didn’t get caught doesn’t make what he did legal or right.

    I’m not referring to any ethnic group as criminals, I’m referring to any one of any ethnic group that snuck into the country illegally as a criminal. That’s why they are called illegal aliens, which BTW is what they were called for decades before the PC lefties changed the term to undocumented immigrants.

    Your attempts to link incarceration rate with criminal activity make the assumption one proves the other valid. Not so-

    ” A few of the other reasons also cited for why the extent of illegal immigrants’ criminal activities is unknown are as follows:

    For many minor crimes, especially crimes involving juveniles, those who are apprehended are not arrested. Only a fraction of those who are arrested are ever brought to the courts for disposition.[46]

    Many illegal immigrants who are apprehended by Border Patrol agents are voluntarily returned to their home countries and are not ordinarily tabulated in national crime statistics. If immigrants, whether illegal or legal, are apprehended entering the United States while committing a crime, they are usually charged under federal statutes and, if convicted, are sent to federal prisons. Throughout this entire process, immigrants may have a chance of deportation, or of sentencing that is different from that for a native-born person.[46]

    We lack comprehensive information on whether arrested or jailed immigrants are illegal immigrants, nonimmigrants, or legal immigrants. Such information can be difficult to collect because immigrants may have a reason to provide false statements (if they reply that they are an illegal immigrant, they can be deported, for instance). The verification of the data is troublesome because it requires matching INS records with individuals who often lack documentation or present false documents.[46]

    Noncitizens may have had fewer years residing in the United States than citizens, and thus less time in which to commit crimes and be apprehended.[46]”

    I’m not doubting the sincerity of your beliefs, but the facts simply don’t add up and trying to make a crime into a praiseworthy event never works.

  47. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Mervel, it’s got nothing to do with skin color. If they snuck in across the northern border through Akwasasne, they should be deported too. I don’t care if they are Mexican, Swedish, Irish, Chinese or Eskimo. Wrong is wrong. It’s really that simple.

    Knuckle- All those hard working, entrepreneurial people need to do is apply for legal immigration. Pretty simple.

  48. The Original Larry says:

    Liberals always want to make it be about race or color. That allows them to hang the racist tag on anyone who disagrees with them. Demeaning and demonizing the opposition is a long practised liberal tactic. Criticize the President and you’re a racist. Oppose illegal immigration and you’re a racist. Very convenient.

  49. Peter Hahn says:

    Larry – its not just liberals – its all ethnic minorities. They voted for Obama in overwhelming numbers because the Republicans are obsessing about men sneaking over the Mexican border (not withstanding Arlo and others insisting they are just as concerned about “Mexican, Swedish, Irish, Chinese or Eskimo”). The reason, presumably, is that any party that goes after one minority will go after all. The voter suppression laws certainly reinforced that view.

    In support of this, many senior Republicans have now come out in favor of some form of immigration reform because they dont want to keep losing elections. Thats the point of Brian’s blog post.

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