Published on TheHill.com on May 4, 2010
In their desperation, President Barack Obama and senators with large Latino populations in their states (like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.) are seeking to polarize Hispanic and Anglo sentiment over the issue of illegal immigration. In his frequent messages calling for higher Latino and black turnout and his condemnation of the Arizona immigration law, Obama is trying to recapture over immigration the voter approval he lost over healthcare.
Arizona acted as it did because of a lack of federal enforcement of federal law barring undocumented immigrants. With a porous border, they felt that they were left no choice but to pass a law allowing potentially intrusive searches to ferret out illegal immigrants. Because this law could subject American citizens of Hispanic origin to undue scrutiny and perhaps to needless trips to the police station, the Arizona law antagonizes the jump ball in the immigration debate — Latino-American voters. If there were a real national identification card, the requirement to produce papers might be less intrusive. But, as it is, with the burden of proof on the citizen (or the illegal immigrant), the law is bound to raise tensions between Anglo cops and Latino citizens.
But being forced to support or oppose the Arizona law is a false choice. It reflects the unimaginative politics of confrontation that jeopardize race relations and elect demagogues like Barack Obama. (Obama’s share of the white vote was the same as Kerry won in 2004. He was elected only because of a three-point increase in black turnout and a shift in Latino votes to his corner. He won because of race, and now he schemes to keep control of Congress by using the immigration issue.)
The real answer is not to round up Latinos in the streets of Phoenix and hope to catch illegals in the net. Nor is it even to pretend that we can stop determined men and women from crossing the border by way of more guards, more troops and better equipment. The answer is to dry up the will to cross the border in the first place by stopping employers from offering jobs to undocumented workers. If there were felony penalties — jail time — for hiring illegals, they would not be hired. And if there were no jobs, there would be no illegal immigration.
The Republican position on illegal immigration should be to demand tough employer sanctions, including jail, and coupling that program with a vigorous guest-worker program to bring needed workers in legally, pay them a living wage and then escort them out when they are no longer needed. The United States, in need of a younger population to pay for our current and future retirees, should also raise the allowed levels of immigration.
Both parties are hypocritical on immigration. Democrats, controlled by unions, want Latinos to vote but not work. Republicans, controlled by agribusiness interests, want them to work but not vote. The answer is to stand up to union and to agribusiness pressure and take tough action to stop the hiring of illegal immigrants.
If there were no jobs for illegals outside of guest-worker programs, there would be no need for amnesty. They would all go home of their own accord or wait until they got legal status.
We would need a foolproof, biometric identity card to speed identification of those eligible for employment to accompany the sanctions against hiring illegals, but this is a small price to pay for an answer to so pressing a problem.
But Obama will not take the step that could end illegal immigration. Why? Because he wants immigration. He seeks to reshape the partisan balance in America by increasing the number of Latino voters and marrying them to the Democratic Party by provoking Republicans who just want law and order to appear racist to Hispanic-Americans. His is a game of great duplicity and racial opportunism. But good legislation can defeat his designs and solve one of our most pressing domestic problems at the same time.