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"The solution we stand for and we have been working on with Congress for years," he says, "is a negotiated compromise that the chief labor union in agriculture and the employers all support, but the debate has grown more and more dysfunctional."
Dysfunctional is not necessarily code for Republican, but it could be for Tea. Immigration reform as expressed in the Schumer bill has strong support from many Republicans, who point out that former President George W. Bush came closer to getting a decent bill passed than has President Barack Obama.
The nail-biting is over the new Tea Party-tinged members of Congress who ran on kick-'em-out platforms. Two in particular will have solid control of immigration reform when the new House is seated in January. U.S. Representative Lamar Smith from the San Antonio area in central Texas will become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Representative Steve King from western Iowa will be chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law, making the pair the House's two main gatekeepers for immigration law.
When Sharry talks about radicals in charge of the House, he means these two. Of Smith, he says, "What he calls attrition through enforcement is a strategy, to be blunt, approaching an American version of ethnic cleansing.
"We're going to expel millions of these Latino immigrants who have been here a long time. They may have violated immigration law to get in, but they have been otherwise law-abiding, hard-working family people, two-thirds of whom have been here for more than a decade, 70 percent of whom are in family units. We're going to make life so miserable for these people that they are expelled from this nation of immigrants."
Smith gave a written statement in response to questions about his plans. "The Judiciary Committee should enact policies that will better secure our border and discourage illegal immigration, human smuggling and drug trafficking," he said.
He concluded with an appeal to anxiety and action: "American citizens should not have to fear for their lives on U.S. soil! If the federal government enforced immigration laws, we could better secure the border and better protect U.S. residents."
King wants to start the expulsions by hitting the softest targets—the children of immigrants. His public pronouncements on immigration have centered on a proposal to amend the Constitution to take away the guarantee of citizenship provided in the 14th Amendment for children born in the United States to foreign parents. King also wants to strip these kids of any social safety net.
In a statement on his House website, King says, "Many of these illegal aliens are giving birth to children in the United States so that they can have uninhibited access to taxpayer-funded benefits and to citizenship for as many family members as possible."
This view of illegal aliens—Latino moochers rushing here to procreate, get on the dole and teach their kids to be terrorists—conflicts with the data. For one thing, Latino immigrants stopped rushing here when the American economy hit the skids in 2008.
More to the point, Latino immigrants—legal or undocumented—are more likely to get jobs and work for a living than native-born Americans. A 2006 U.S. Census study found that more than 68 percent of working-age people of Mexican origin are working as opposed to 65.7 percent of all Americans. People of Central American origin make most Americans look like they're on permanent siesta: More than 76 percent of working-age Central Americans in this country earn a living by working, the study found.
The best evidence in favor of the Latino immigrants is in the outcomes achieved by the wave of them accorded amnesty under Reagan. A July 13 VVM story provided a gallery of examples of immigrants granted amnesty under the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 who have gone on to become esteemed and productive members of their communities at all levels of the socio-economic ladder. It's a story reflected all over America, wherever those families took root after gaining citizenship.
Perhaps that's why the ardor for expulsion is not shared by a majority of Americans, almost 80 percent of whom want to see something done to normalize the status of undocumented aliens in the country, according to a New York Times poll last May.
A poll in early November, paid for by America's Voice, came up with similar numbers, including almost 80 percent support for steps that would keep undocumented aliens here by culling out the criminals, making the rest legal, and putting them on the tax rolls—which seems feasible even under laws now in effect. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently announced that her agency removed 392,000 undocumented aliens from the country in fiscal 2010, including a record 195,000 convicted criminals.
The best hope of moderate reformers is that the expulsion issue can be locked up in a congressional stalemate until something happens to make it and its proponents go away, presumably in the election of 2012. That's a lot to hope for.
These reformers base their Hail Mary hope on a prediction that Republicans, fearful of a backlash in 2012, will muzzle the extremists in their party. Immediately after the midterm election, a number of moderate reform and Latino groups brought out exit-poll data to show that anti-immigrant racism of some Republican campaigns had forged a strong Latino backlash against Republicans. Now Latino leaders are predicting trouble for Republican candidates in 2012, if the GOP stays in step with Smith and King on immigration.