By MARTIN SCHRAM
Scripps Howard News Service
June 16, 2007
We are talking about, of course, the U.S. government's policy on illegal immigrants.
There are more than 12 million of them now, by the official estimates of the officials who enforce the policy that pretends these illegals don't exist. By the time you finish reading this sentence, these officials estimate that the number may have risen to 13 million.
(Don't be chagrined if you fell for the head-fake in the opening sentence. Of course, you are correct that the government's only officially stated policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is the military policy that allows homosexuals to serve in the armed forces -- fight, bleed and die for America -- as long as nobody officially knows they are homosexuals. That policy is so inane that retired Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. John Shalikashvili has come around to saying it should be scrapped so gays and lesbians can openly serve. But today we are not talking about scrapping that policy. We are focusing on the other head-in-the-sand policy. The one that was forged not on homophobia, nor even xenophobia, but on an "economania" that was made in the USA.)
Artist Cam Cardow, The Ottawa Citizen
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.
A convergence of powerful political and economic forces brought us to the position where looking the other way became our national bold action of choice. Illegal immigrants who slipped into this country were willing to work for pay far below the minimum wage, without costly benefits. Make no mistake; we were all in it together: agribusinesses, small farmers, restaurant owners, grocery-store owners, grocery shoppers, restaurant diners, homeowners with manicured lawns. We all wanted to reap the benefits of cheap labor-- high profits, low prices. And were willing to pay for it in our own way: by winking at enforcement and employers who did our bidding by doing nothing.
Now this: President Bush came to Washington determined to do in the White House what he had done in the Texas statehouse. His goal was to lead us toward a set of reforms based on common sense, common decency and, most of all, clear-eyed reality -- 12 million illegals can no longer be ignored and can never be sent back to where they came from.
They are driving cars and we must make sure they are all legally licensed. They have children who were born here, are thus U.S. citizens; they are going to school and will become productive U.S. citizens. Millions of illegals who have families cannot be one fender-bender or red light away from deportation that will shatter their families, including some of our youngest new citizens. They are here to stay. They pay sales taxes when they buy; some pay income taxes, too. They are undocumented, but they are not unpersons. They are our reality and we must find a way to make each a documented legality.
Timeout: We know that Bush's immigration zeal began in Texas as a political strategy. Indeed, Bush's baby was Karl Rove's brainchild. The idea was to convert Texas' Mexican immigrants, who were overwhelmingly Democratic, into grateful new Republican voters. But it is not news that politicians are motivated by politics. For example, congressional Democratic leaders have played politics with Bush's immigration reform bill in their shortsighted attempt to ensure that he gets blamed for the bad things and gets no credit for the good things.
Which brings us to the demagogues in our midst. They have overrun the talk media and blogs -- and now dominate the prime-time cable news. Hyped spin trumps hard news. Facts are fungible.
Indeed, the demagoguery has blown away the politics as we always knew it. Left-right distinctions have been smashed. George W. Bush, John McCain and Ted Kennedy stand together. Their ex-pals of the left and right lob name-calling grenades into their bandwagons. The slicksters running for president are the worst cheap-shot bomb-throwers. The biggest diversion is to say that first we must secure our borders. Of course we must. But it isn't either/or; nor one/two. We must do both, as best we can.
The biggest I.E.D. (Immigration Explosive Demagoguery) is labeled "Amnesty." Critics call the Bush-McCain-Kennedy compromise "amnesty" -- which the reformers deny because their plan requires illegals to undergo waiting periods, pass tests and pay fines.
Now the truth: Of course the Bush-McCain-Kennedy reform is amnesty. But doing nothing is also amnesty. The head-in-sand demagogues would grant amnesty by allowing illegals to stay undocumented forever. As long as we don't ask and they don't tell.
That can never be our national
policy unless we are willing to decree that our national bird
is the American ostrich.
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