June 19, 2006
One of the reasons why communication between the United States and Latin America is difficult is the fact that the Spanish language makes no distinction between policy (which is what the government does with its power) and politics (which is the struggle to control government power). Come to think of it, neither does Karl Rove! The immigration issue is a classic case of how politics has corrupted public policy, as both parties have deferred confronting a slowly growing problem for fear they would lose the next election. Today's Washington Post lays the blame for lax border enforcement on the Bush administration: "The number of employers prosecuted for unlawfully employing immigrants dropped from 182 in 1999 to four in 2003..." Can you say "remiss"? Mark Krikorian, of the Center for Immigration Studies, is quoted as saying the Bush administration's record in this area is "laughable." Even a pro-immigration activist called enforcement efforts "woefully tiny."
That Post article also noted that in 1999, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) pressured the Justice Department to put an end to "Operation Vanguard," a crackdown on illegal labor in meatpacking plants in Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota. Like the other leading "moderate" senator, the one from Arizona, Hagel is known to have Higher Ambitions and therefore panders to the mainstream media. Coincidentally, in Thursday's Post, Hagel was quoted by columnist David Broder as asking,
Is the party of Abraham Lincoln going to allow a permanent second class of people waiting to be citizens?
For a public official who acted to thwart law enforcement and who makes excuses for the status quo two-tiered labor regime to turn around and accuse others in his party of discrimination is the height of hypocrisy. The whole point of genuine immigration reform is to halt the widespread existing exploitation of immigrant workers and put everyone on equal legal terms. Sen. Hagel should be ashamed of himself.
Sunday's Washington Post reported on the changed atmosphere on the Rio Grande, now that the old "catch and release" policy has been replaced by the new zero-tolerance "catch and remove" policy. Many Mexicans are genuinely surprised that the gringos are actually trying to stop them, and the U.S. Border Patrol agents state quite frankly that, until the recent change in policy, "They [border crossers] had no regard for us." What many people fail to understand that prestige and respect are the very foundation of national security. When a country's armed guardians are made to look like fools, it only encourages criminals and terrorists to challenge them.
In yesterday's Outlook section of the Post, George Will contrasts the short-term advantages the Republicans are likely to garner from the immigration issue this fall's elections -- however Congress deals with the pending legislation -- versus the long-term erosion in terms of voting support from Latinos. He does not conceal his scorn for the Bush administration and the Senate "moderates," but his long-term pessimism seems excessive. I say there are plenty of intelligent Hispanic voters who would tacitly acknowledge that the existing system is very harmful to their own people, dehumanizing desperate Latinos and undermining respect for law. It should be obvious that people who can't trust the police are more likely to come under the sway of violent gangs. With proper explanation, immigration reform could attract a large number of Latino votes. Reform-minded Republicans should not write them off.
In a referendum yesterday, nearly three fourths of the voters in Catalonia expressed a desire that their region of Spain have more autonomy. No one is certainly exactly where this would lead, however, and the wording was apparently vague. Only 49 percent of eligible voters participated, however, so the results don't necessarily mean that much. See BBC.