Monday, July 12, 2010

Stay- But Don't Get Too Comfortable

What is the Republican Party up to on illegal immigration?

Sarah Palin, one of the two leading prospects for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, condemns illegal immigrants and wants them to register- and then all is forgiven. She hasn’t called for mass deportations or even increased enforcement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Republican Party head Rush Limbaugh condemns illegal immigrants but specifically rules out a round-up, on May 3 emphasizing “ I have never said, whatever number are here illegally, "Round 'em up and deport 'em." It isn't realistic.” He wants them to assimilate and actually become part of our culture.” This sounds an awful lot like the path to citizenship component of the Schumer (D-NY)- Graham (R-SC) immigration plan wherein illegal immigrants

would be required to admit they broke the law and to pay their debt to society by performing community service and paying fines and back taxes. These people would be required to pass background checks and be proficient in English before going to the back of the line of prospective immigrants to earn the opportunity to work toward lawful permanent residence.

Colin Hanna of the conservative Let Freedom Ring advocates securing the border (as does every Republican; every Democrat, also, come to think of it); workplace enforcement; and classification of illegal immigration as a felony, with the resulting offender pleading guilty, receiving a suspended sentence, and being allowed to remain in the country as a permanent legal resident.

Intriguing formulation, especially that “permanent legal resident” part. Maintain your skepticism, for he argues

People granted permanent legal resident status would be ineligible to become U.S. citizens, but they would otherwise be fully able to integrate into American society. They could "emerge from the shadows" and join civic associations, PTAs, chambers of commerce, and be eligible for drivers' licenses. The only significant activity in which they could not participate is voting. (Note that in most years the majority of U.S. citizens do not vote either.)

Hanna wants such individuals to “emerge from the shadows” and “be fully able to integrate into American society.” But he doesn’t want them to become citizens, wherein the right to vote would be guaranteed. Integrate into American society- but don’t become a part of the great American experiment and enjoy the fruits of what, I suppose, Hanna would consider the freest nation in the world. Integrate into American society- but become a second-class citizen or, rather, no citizen at all.

Hanna recommends even that the suspended sentence “could also be reinstated to require immediate incarceration if subsequent serious crimes are committed.” And who would decide what crimes would be subject to immediate incarceration? Who would impose the immediate incarceration? There is nothing better, she apparently believes, than denial of due process (immediate incarceration) to prove our commitment to the rule of law. And nothing fairer, apparently, than living one’s entire life under criminal sentence for what would be an offense possibly committed decades earlier.

In a transparent attempt to co-opt criticism of his scheme, Hanna claims
Those who object to this plan may reveal underlying reasons for their objections.
For instance, those in the president's party may have voter registration, rather than compassion for undocumented immigrants, as their real but hidden motivation for promoting immigration reform.

You may stay, work hard, and pay taxes. But don’t vote. Because we in the GOP don’t want to lower ourselves to compete for your vote or your support, or worry that you may register as a Democrat. And because if you don’t have the right to vote, whatever accommodation we make for you now can always be rescinded retroactively.

Alert the Tea Party! With “taxation without representation” the rallying cry of the colonists, surely Hanna’s notion will meet with hearty disapproval among Tea Party members.

But it will not because most members are Republicans and an overwhelming number, conservatives. And it quickly will gain the attention, and the enthusiastic support, of Rush Limbaugh and some other right wing talkies. It’s a perfect scheme- get the contributions from this class of immigrants but not have to worry that the law in Arizona, or other anti-immigrant measures, will spur a backlash. You get the upside of the current Repub political strategy without the downside, making political manipulation of those fortunate enough to be American citizens a risk-free tactic.

Denying the franchise is not the only objective of GOP immigration politics but is (or will be) an essential component of the goal of acquiring a whole class of new residents which lacks full American citizenship and thus the ability to assert a right as citizens and workers.

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