With Amigos Like Gingrich, Who Needs Enemigos?
The TV pundits said it was "a huge gamble" and a "very courageous move." But those comments on Newt Gingrich's "legalization without citizenship" proposal showed how distant most of them are from the heart of the U.S. Hispanic community.
The only thing that seemed to worry the talking heads was the backlash Gingrich was likely to encounter from conservatives for taking such a "radical" position on immigration at last week's GOP presidential debate on CNN. They kept wondering whether Gingrich would suffer the same fate as Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who took a dive in the polls after trying to defend a single pro-immigrant position in the debates.
But the analysts were presenting an incomplete picture, proving that there is a huge need for more diversity on the 24-hour news networks.
Had the networks asked for the Hispanic perspective, someone might have told them that Gingrich's proposal is a farce. That it's probably unconstitutional. That it would create a permanent underclass of residents without rights. That it would be unacceptable to most immigrant rights advocates. And that it is not nearly enough to challenge President Barack Obama for the Hispanic vote in 2012. Who does Gingrich think he is fooling?
Are these pundits so naive that they don't see that "legalization without citizenship" is a political ploy to avoid giving these immigrants the right to vote? Why weren't they questioning why Gingrich wants to stop short of giving these immigrants full citizenship? Isn't it because he knows that most of these immigrants - so tired of being scapegoated by Republicans - eventually are likely to become Democrats?
Yet almost all we heard from the TV pundits was a lot of rhetoric about how Gingrich had the courage to take a bold and unpopular stance on immigration. Granted, compared to the cowardly, hypocritical and draconian positions the other Republican candidates have taken on this issue, Gingrich comes out looking like the lesser of a few evils.
And it did feel good to hear Gingrich reminding his fellow Republicans that they are supposed to be the party of family values, while many of them continue to advocate "an immigration policy which destroys families." It was good to hear him tell them they should try to be "humane" in enforcing immigration law.
"If you've been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you've been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don't think we're going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out," Gingrich said.
Coming from a Republican running in the current immigrant-bashing presidential campaign, this is a rare sign of compassion. But of course, to have serious immigration reform, instead of 25 years, the cutoff date for those who get to stay should be somewhere between 3 and 5 years. And, of course, Gingrich's suggestion that "without giving citizenship" to undocumented immigrants, we should find "a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families" was laughable and bitterly funny. His explanation that "there's a way to ultimately end up with a country where there's no more illegality, but you haven't automatically given amnesty to anyone" was an insult to human intelligence.
During the debate, Gingrich credited the idea to The Vernon K. Krieble Foundation. He said that the foundation "has a very good Red Card program that says you get to be legal, but you don't get a path to citizenship."
But he was being purposely deceitful. He didn't tell us that the "Red Card Solution" has two tracks — one that leads to citizenship and one that is basically a temporary guest workers program, which requires immigrants to return to their home countries after working here a few years.
Yet amazingly, instead of challenging the logic and constitutionality of creating a second class of legal citizens in this country, the other GOP candidates — and some of the pundits — reacted by pandering to the nation's right-wing extremists. They charged that Gingrich was proposing "amnesty" and "a magnet" that would invite other undocumented immigrants to come here in the future.
Instead of laughing at Gingrich's wacky suggestion that we should institutionalize discrimination by creating "something like a World War II Selective Service Board" to determine which undocumented immigrants are allowed to stay here, the other candidates kept pandering to the extremists and alienating themselves from Latino voters.
"I don't agree that you would make 11 million workers legal because that, in effect, is amnesty," said Rep. Michelle Bachmann, acting as if she was horrified by what she had just heard from Gingrich.
"Look, amnesty is a magnet," said Romney who keeps hardening his position on immigration in every debate. About six years ago, Romney actually favored the failed, amnesty-driven McCain-Kennedy immigration reform legislation. But in the last few months, Romney has come out against a pathway to legalization even for those who came here as children or even after the U.S.-Mexico border is "secured."
But there isn't a more vivid illustration of how dramatically Romney has flipped on immigration than the 2007 "Meet the Press" interview that was resurrected on that program Sunday. Only four years ago, Romney told "Meet the Press" that longtime illegal immigrants should be allowed "to stay, sign up for permanent residency or citizenship."
My dictionary says that a chameleon is "a small slow-moving Old World lizard with ... a highly developed ability to change color." All that's missing is a photo of Romney, the chameleon politician willing to take any position on any issue, as long as the flip-flop is politically expedient.
If this is the best that Republicans can do to compete with President Obama for the Latino vote, if all they have is a group of candidates trying to out pander each other for the consumption of xenophobic extremists, if their most liberal candidate on immigration is Gingrich, the one willing to create an underclass of Americans, Obama will win the Latino vote by a landslide.
Just moments after he walked off the debate stage last week, Gingrich was back on CNN and backpedaling from his new "courageous" position on immigration. He wanted to reassure the GOPs conservative base that he is still one of the good, old immigrant-bashing boys.
"I want to say 'go home' to lots of people," Gingrich said. "I want to create a border that is controlled. I want a guest worker program outsourced to American Express or Visa or MasterCard. I want English as the official language of government. I'm willing to be tough."
I believe him. After all, this is the same ruthless politician who tried to bar legal immigrants from receiving federal social services — from school lunches to disability payments for the elderly — when he rammed his Contract with America through Congress in 1994. It's the same fear monger who charged in 1995 that bilingualism poses "long term dangers to the fabric of our nation" and that "allowing bilingualism to continue to grow is very dangerous." The same race-baiter who in 2007 came out against bilingual education by equating it with "the language of living in a ghetto." He's the same one who still is campaigning for making English the official language because he wants the government to stop printing ballots, census questionnaires and other important documents in other languages.
With amigos like Gingrich, who needs enemigos?
To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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