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. Mervel says:

    I am sensitive to that problem of always saying someone is a racist who disagrees. But in this case I don’t think that is the case. The thread was about how Republicans can look at immigration issues in light of the election and in light of how they view our economy. We do need to enforce our laws and we need to enforce our border security.

    The issue is how to do that effectively and if we need to change anything? I would be in favor of pushing for easier access to legal work for non-citizens. The more we get rid of the underground economy the better. The problem is also a little deeper in that we have no way to uniformly prove who is a citizen or not. The fact is we need a national citizenship document for every citizen. Our immigration system itself is better than it used to be, but in general it is a mess, it needs to be streamlined made to work faster and more efficiently.

    So on the ground what happens? If you are stopped or pulled over by local police, it is impossible to prove you are a citizen or not, so it is simply up to their gut about who is and how is not a citizen. If you are a US citizen who is Hispanic the fact is you are more likely to be detained and hassled than if you are an Anglo. This is what the problem is for Republicans and the Hispanic voters who would lean Republican, they don’t want to be detained and sometimes thrown into a detention center to await proof of being a citizen, this has happened it is a reality of life for those living in the southern border states. There is no one phone number you can call and say , “hey is this guy a citizen?” Our system is fundamentally flawed in that regard.

  2. Peter Hahn says:

    Arlo – Im not doubting your beliefs either, just your logic. By your definition of “criminal”, that is someone who did something that could be considered a minor crime many years ago, (but a crime that is never prosecuted), we are all criminals. Marijuana possession has been a crime in most states for many years. If you dont like that one, substitute shoplifting, or stealing office supplies from your work, etc. It is a meaningless usage of the term, which you are non the less implying that it only refers to “illegal immigrants”.

    As to claiming that prison statistics understate criminal activity because illegal immigrants are deported (or the other reasons your source lists) is more sophistry or wishful thinking on your part. Any “crime” that gets someone deported but not sent to jail is too minor to worry about. They wouldnt be sent to jail as citizens either.

    Most deportees are picked up by the police because they are drunk and then referred to ICE. (At least the Guatemalan ones).

  3. Peter Hahn says:

    Other reasons for getting picked up are “driving while Mexican” – Mervel’s point. Racial profiling is a burden that minorities face and dont like. If Republicans encourage racial profiling (and they do now for Latin Americans of native American decent) they will continue to lose minority votes.

  4. The Original Larry says:

    “They voted for Obama in overwhelming numbers because the Republicans are obsessing about men sneaking over the Mexican border”

    No, they did not. They voted for Obama in overwhelming numbers because, as minorities, they identify with a minority candidate.

  5. Peter Hahn says:

    Larry – then why are all the republican big-wigs talking now about “immigration reform”? Obama wont run again. If thats all it is, they dont have to worry. (but you would think they could figure that out better than you or I).

  6. Walker says:

    Larry, would you care to provide some evidence to back up your assertion that minorities voted for Obama primarily due to racial identification? Is this because they can’t think things through rationally? If you can’t provide a source, how about a line of reasoning?

  7. Rancid Crabtree says:

    They voted for Obama because he gives them stuff, or at least that’s what they believe. They also voted for Obama because of the propaganda campaign telling them anyone to the right of center wants to bring back slavery, cut off welfare, etc. Hispanics likely would have voted for Obama since they believed the idea anyone white wanted to deport them all, citizen or illegal alien. That propaganda campaign has surely worked.

    I cannot believe anyone can not grasp the reality of an illegal alien being a criminal for as long as they remain here. Its so basic. I don;t care how long they’ve been here, they are still criminals for sneaking into the country and will be as long as they remain.

    I believe Mervel hit the nail on the head with his proof of citizenship card idea. Tie it into a drivers license or non-driver ID. Make it free if your income is so low it’s a burden. That would solve a lot of issues in one simple move- citizenship, voter ID, etc.

    Walker, asking proof of rational thinking from a voting block that had members publicly stating Obama would pay their rent and buy them a car is pretty difficult. You could refer to people like actor Samuel L Jackson who stated he was going to vote for Obama precisely because he was black. And since we’re told that many white people will vote for a white candidate because of skin color, shouldn’t we also assume blacks will vote for a black candidate? That would explain the 100% Obama voting blocks in some of our urban areas, would it not? Wouldn’t that also explain the polls that had blacks across the nation intending to vote for Obama by a 90% margin?

    Peter, you should work in the legal system for some time before forming any opinions about how crimes are prosecuted and what defines a crime that “is too minor to worry about”. Given the cost of prosecution vs deportation it’s a win win for the state to deport if they have the opportunity.

  8. Peter Hahn says:

    Rancid – you are still digging at the bottom of the hole you are stuck in.

  9. Walker says:

    Rancid, asking proof of rational thinking from a voting block that had members publicly stating that they thought Obama wasn’t born in this country, that he had plans to take away their guns, that secession is a reasonable response to losing an election, that somehow, this time, tax cuts would lead to prosperity and that a deregulated financial sector would behave itself… well, you see where we’re going here.

  10. Walker says:

    “…proof of citizenship card idea. Tie it into a drivers license or non-driver ID. Make it free if your income is so low it’s a burden. That would solve a lot of issues in one simple move- citizenship, voter ID, etc.”

    I think this is not an entirely unreasonable idea, but I would guess the a lot of Tea Party/Gun Nut/Libertarian types would have a whole lot of trouble with it (probably joined by extreme elements from the left). Then there’s the problem forgeries and of replacing lost/stolen cards. I’m not sure it’s the complete solution it seems like at first glance.

  11. The Original Larry says:

    Peter Hahn said:
    “They voted for Obama in overwhelming numbers because the Republicans are obsessing about men sneaking over the Mexican border” and you’re asking me for evidence? Clinton, Gore and Kerry all polled enormous numbers among blacks, for example, but Obama topped them all. The Democrats have been doing a great job demonizing Republicans for years. It’s no wonder they (minorities) voted for the guy who looks most like them.

  12. Kathy says:

    If one BP station in one border town processes 30+ people a day – I would say that is significant.

  13. The Original Larry says:

    We do not need a National ID card. The vast majority of Americans (of all races and colors) have no problem proving their citizenship if and when they are asked. Sure, some people may be inconvenienced occasionally, but that’s life. In the politically incorrect past some immigrant groups suffered more than inconvenience but that generally ended as they more fully assimilated into American life and culture. Nowadays, because assimilation is discouraged, the inconvenience may continue.

  14. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I’m still waiting for my stuff. I’ll give Obama until inauguration day but if I don’t get my stuff by then I will never vote for him again.

  15. Walker says:

    It’ll be under your tree, khl.

    He knows if you voted naughty or nice, you know.

  16. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Walker, the flip side to that is that Mitt Romney killed a woman by removing her healthcare, wanted to establish plural marriages across the nation, was going to outlaw abortion, was going to establish Mormanism as a national religion, had a larger retirement than Obama, etc., etc., etc. Or you can go back further to Bush actually blowing up the Trade Centers himself, blowing the levees outside New Orleans, etc. on back through our history.

    I don’t think a whole lot of right wing, gun nut, libertarian types would object to tying verification of citizenship into their drivers license if it was done at the State level. A Federal ID is another thing entirely. I realize some people can’t wrap their heads around why it’s such a sticking point, but then most people can’t see the difference between a democracy and a republic. Establish it at the State level to a uniform standard and I’d think it would fly. Yeah, forgeries are possible, but that’s life. The electronic voting machines brought in a whole new option for election fraud, but most folks don’t have an issue with it, that’s life.

    Peter, you have a twisted logic on the illegal immigration subject that defies common sense. These people broke the law in coming here if they snuck in. It’s really simple. That’s a crime and they if they want to make it right, if we want them to make it right, then they either need to leave and apply to come in legally or we need to come up with an alternative. I think a workers visa should be easier to obtain and I see no reason an illegal already here shouldn’t have a way to obtain one. At present that’s not an option. We could develop that option, but we don’t want simple amnesty because it solves nothing. So come up with an option, but it has to have teeth to it and they have to have some penalty for being here illegally in the first place. Otherwise we aren’t going to stop illegal entry. So give them a workers visa, put them on the tax roles, allow them to apply for citizenship if they wish but put some teeth into the penalty end. I’m sure my “teeth” are far too harsh for your tastes, but we have to put an end to this problem.

  17. Walker says:

    “…Mitt Romney killed a woman by removing her healthcare, wanted to establish plural marriages across the nation, was going to outlaw abortion, was going to establish Mormanism as a national religion…”

    Arlo, maybe it’s just me, but I never saw any of those, while the ones I mentioned were everywhere.

    “…most people can’t see the difference between a democracy and a republic…”

    Maybe that’s because they aren’t mutually exclusive: the U.S. is a republic and a democracy. I’ve seen way too many people say “we’re not a democracy, we’re a republic!” Well, that’s half right anyway.

  18. Peter Hahn says:

    Arlo – “these people broke the law” That law no one knew about until you xenophobes started searching old laws. As far as I know, no one has ever been prosecuted using that law for obvious reasons (think about it).

    There are lots of old laws on the books – sodomy laws, laws against interracial marriage – who knows which other ones. My point is that the whole “they are criminals” is factually incorrect, inflammatory, and a big part of the reason most non-european minorities who are US citizens dont trust republicans.

    Yes we can “solve” this problem. It is usually done every 20 years as a one-shot, never again deal. We will do some variant of it again, probably next year or the year after.

  19. Marlo Stanfield says:

    The Democrats didn’t need any kind of propaganda campaign to get Latino votes. The Republicans provided it for them, by spending the past few years trying to talk tougher than the last guy about how they’re going to deport all illegal immigrants and back state laws like the one in Arizona that have resulted in legal residents of Latino descent being hassled for no reason. With all that its a wonder Romney almost got 30 percent of their votes.

  20. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Yeah Walker, I imagine it is just you because I saw the commercials and read the stories. Google them, it’s easy.

    The US is a republic, not a democracy. True, it’s a democratic form of gov’t in that the power rest with the people and they determine their gov’t by vote, but it’s not a true democracy. In a democracy all it takes is 50.1% of the vote and it’s winner takes all. They can then enslave the other 49.9% if they vote to. In a republic the 50.1% may win, but the rights of the 49.9% aren’t absolved, it’s not winner take all. So you are half right in one respect, but wholly wrong in another. If you want to argue it I’ve got scads of source material we can refer to on the differences and the differences between an democracy and democratic form of gov’t. I thought as you did at one time too.

    Peter, are you seriously claiming that no one was ever prosecuted as an illegal alien prior to the last 10 years ago or so? You can’t possibly be serious. Immigration laws have been in place since at least 1875 and deportation for illegal aliens since 1888, if not earlier. The Border Patrol has been arresting illegal aliens since 1924. This isn’t something that was invented under Bush 2. And I’m not a xenophobe or racist or anything else. I’m just someone who believes in the law and that the ends do not justify the means in this case.

    As far as your claim that every 20 years there’s an amnesty program, please, provide me with the source information you have for that. There was only one amnesty deal and that happened in 1986. I have no idea what other deals you think there have been.

    Also, sodomy laws are still prosecuted. Apparently you need to look up the legal definition because it covers a lot more than just oral and anal sex between consenting adults. That was a real poor choice for ancient, obscure law.

  21. Peter Hahn says:

    Arlo – you are misunderstanding what I am saying. The law you quote to justify your (and Rancid’s) claim that “illegals” are criminals is not ever prosecuted. People are deported every day, but not based on that law. Based on the civil code, not the criminal code.

  22. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Good lord man. Look, if you break into someones home and steal things you committed a burglary. You might be offered a plea bargain that knocks it down to criminal trespass, but you still committed a burglary!

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