From Punching Bags to Voters

By Miguel Perez

June 25, 2007 5 min read

Let's face it, they have us playing defense.

Those of us seeking fair and comprehensive immigration reform are barely holding the line against those who promote anti-immigrant sentiments.

Immigration restrictionists, conservative radio demagogues and race-baiting politicians have made this nation much more divided, xenophobic and intolerant in the last year.

As a result, the bill about to be resurrected in the U.S. Senate this week is already so politically compromised to ease the fears of conservative hardliners that it is not worth saving.

The new bill is designed to exploit future guest workers without giving them a chance to stay here legally, and places more emphasis on the job skills of visa applicants than on the ties they have with relatives who already live in the United States. It punishes legal immigrants who may have already been waiting years to be reunited with relatives.

In fact, in spite of huge immigrant-rights demonstrations, a midterm election backlash against immigrant-bashing politicians and a new Democratic majority in Congress, the bill now under consideration is much further to the right than the one passed by the Senate and rejected by the House last year.

Yet the Senate is still trying to amend it and move it further and further to the right. Immigrant rights advocates have been left in the pitiful position of begging for crumbs.

Instead of drawing a line in the sand on how many draconian amendments they are willing to swallow, instead of declaring some provisions totally unacceptable, some immigrant rights leaders are still telling us to support this measure blindly — "because it's the only bill we can get."

Well, sometimes having no bill at all is better than having a bad one.

Yet, playing defense, these immigrant rights advocates insist that we should support the current bill, because even if the Senate version turns out to be hideous, they say it can always be fixed in the House version.

Of course, that's not just wishful thinking. It's dreaming.

The House may be led by Nancy Pelosi and a Democratic majority, but it's still the same House roamed by viciously anti-immigrant demagogues like Reps. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Tom Tancredo, R-Colo. If the Senate fight has been divisive and counterproductive for this nation, we can expect the House fight to be even more vicious and damaging.

In fact, we can expect the House debate to be much more blatantly anti-Hispanic. After all, fear of Hispanic empowerment is what really drives many of these immigrant bashers.

If you let them talk long enough to get past the usual whining about how they can't condone giving amnesty to lawbreakers, you hear them explain that what they really oppose is any form of a "path to citizenship" for the 12 million illegal immigrants who are already here.

In order to appease them, the new bill has been gradually altered to delay the time when these immigrants can become eligible for citizenship. But no amount of time — it's now up to at least 13 years — is enough to satisfy those who are determined to thwart Latino empowerment.

They know that if and when these Latinos become citizens and voters, they will remember those who made them feel so unwelcome.

Someday, there will be a huge political price to pay for today's anti-immigrant climate. And while some conservative politicians try to delay that day from arriving, others are still trying to make sure it never comes.

That's why many politicians, mostly Republican, only want taller fences (and only at the southern border), and more police-state tactics to round up and deport many of the hardest working people in America.

They acknowledge that 12 million people can't be deported and yet they offer no solution for reducing the illegal immigrant population. After all, if there were no more illegal immigrants, who would they use as punching bags?

Here's a Republican reality check: As much as they claim to detest illegal immigrants, the anti-immigrant leaders need these people to keep their own gig alive.

If there were no illegal immigrants, they would have to find another issue to be bitter about.

And that's why they are not about to allow their punching bags to become voters.

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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