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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy


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Some wonder how the GOP (and a few scared Democrats) could be convinced to jump off the ledge and commit political suicide by voting down a bill that most polls showed was widely supported by the public and, more importantly, will likely alienate America's largest and fastest growing minority for a generation or more. And also alienate the pro-business base of the party by taking such an egregiously anti-business, big government position that stinks of hypocrisy.

It wasn't that hard. For those of you who think have a high opinion the political sophistication of the typical member of Congress, I have a news flash - they are influenced most by those who make the most noise (or donate the most money). I spoke to numerous staffers on the Hill over the course of the last few months and many votes were changed simply by the overwhelming onslaught of phone calls, faxes and emails. These groups were so successful, they actually managed to crash the Senate switchboard today.

NumbersUSA, FAIR and the other anti-immigrant groups that worked on this bill were able to make themselves seem like they are a lot larger than they are. The Hispanic community in the US had the numbers to overwhelm in the other direction, but lacked the organization. And so these groups were able to convince the GOP that they could cost them their seats.

The White House knew better and sounded the alarm bells. Karl Rove and other political advisors to the President know he is in the White House today because of strong Hispanic support and the Bush folks worked their fingers to the bone to earn that support. Whatever one thinks of Mr. Rove, no one has ever accused him of being politically naive. And Harry Reid certainly understands this.  I think a lot of GOP members will understand this in 2008 when they are stunned at the polls.

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  1. Chuck Curtis's Avatar
    You write, "NumbersUSA, FAIR and the other anti-immigrant groups that worked on this bill were able to make themselves seem like they are a lot larger than they are."
    Then again, maybe they are just as large as them seem. Since they overloaded the Senate switchboard for the first time in history, you must admit there's a group of some size out there who oppose illegal immigration.
    Or maybe the Senators are wiser than you suspect. Perhaps they thought that people who call, write and email are also peolpe who contribute, volunteer for campaigns and vote.
    My guess is the motivation and organization will carry enough momentum to make illegal immigration the most important issue of the 08 election, much to the distress of Senators Clinton and/or Obama.
  2. William M.'s Avatar
    Actually this country deserves that the 12+ million people pack up and leave at once, and no new ones come to ease the chaos. That would teach these xenophobic conservatives a real lesson, but unfortunately that's not going to happen, and next time they'll have to deal with 15 to 20 million people instead. Maybe if the GOP gets stronger on 2009 they could round up the illegals and kill them in the name of the law, just so they set an example for future outlaws. Wouldn't that get ample support from the ultra conservatives? Never mind the fence.
  3. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    Chuck - If what you said was true, then public opinion polling would back it up. In fact, Hispanic revenge at the polls cost several Republicans their seats last November and it's hard to identify a single person who won their seat by being anti-immigration. And every major poll that asked people detailed questions on the elements of the immigration bill found overwhelming public support, particularly on the question of legalizing illegal aliens. The GOP ignores these numbers at its peril.

    Merely getting zealots to spend the day bombarding a switchboard does not a movement make.
  4. 's Avatar
    I wondering what kind of immigration reform that these groups won't oppose ? all they want is seal the border and round them up and ship em out and no more immigration legal or not, some of them say let's seal the border first then we talk about the immigration reform, it's almost impossible to seal the border 100 percent, even the national guard some of them are accused of transporting illegal entrants. I remember these people are saying that the 245(i) is an amnesty and once you are elligable you can do what ever you want, go out of the country and come back, which is not true. I hope someday you pay 50 dollars per lb of lettuce or eat some poisoned veggies from China.
  5. R. Lawson's Avatar
    According to Siskind politicians were "convinced to jump off the ledge and commit political suicide".

    I think they saved their political hides. Voting for a bill that would decrease illegal immigration by just 25% (according to GAO estimates) and cost over $2 trillion in social security - while doubling legal immigration over 10 years sounds like political suicide to me.

    I don't think that bill is what the American people want. They said that loud and clear.

    What the American people have said is simple. Enforce the law, and once we trust that our laws can and will be enforced, then we should discuss expanding legal immigration. You can't expand immigration unless the system in place works. That is what Americans have said.

    And clearly, the current system does not work by just about any standard on either side of this debate. There has been a total disregard for the laws of this nation by those entrusted to enforce the laws.

    In 2004 there were just 4 employer prosecutions related to illegal immigration. That number has since jumped because of political pressure, but employers still stand a better chance of getting eaten by an alligator than going to prison for violating immigration employment laws. What a mockery of the system!

    Unlike the people Greg Siskind terms anti-immigrant, I don't believe that our focus should be on deportations (with the exception of violent criminals). I believe our focus should be on prosecuting employers who break the law. That is the most effective and most humane way to resolve this issue.

    The immigrants in my family, including my step mother and my wife, came into this country legally. My brother from Korea is now a proud US citizen and doctor in the US Army and will be serving in Iraq this fall, saving the lives of soldiers and Iraqis. Immigrants have so much to offer this country - and I know this first hand. We should support immigration - but employers have an obligation to respect the laws of our nation.

    Don't trample on immigration and immigrants by allowing corporations to game the system for their own personal interests.
  6. chris's Avatar

    Since you have more influence than I do, why not try to ask people to urge President Bush to issue an executive order like an emancipation proclamation.

  7. Oswald Spengler's Avatar
    What ordinary Americans seem not to visualize is the potential civil unrest in the making, worst than the LA riots of 1992...perhaps we will witness how main streets in the United States start looking like Baghdad or Gaza strip.
  8. Interested Observer's Avatar
    I think saying "a few scared Democrats" voted no is misleading. Here is a list of the scared Democrats that voted no: Feinstein, Rockefeller, Brown, Byrd, Webb, Stabenow, Bayh, Landrieu, Pryor, McCaskill, Harken, Nelson, Dorgan, Bingaman, Tester and Baucus. If my calculations are correct, that is 16! That is close to 1/3 of the Dems. Seems to me that there was a fairly broad bi-partisan realization that this bill was just plain bad.

    I am a (legal) immigrant myself, and am staunchly pro-immigration. I think there are many like me that are pro-immigration and anti CIR. IMHO, I think illegals who have put down roots here (3 or 4 years at least in the country) should get legal status to work and live in the U.S., but no citizenship. Their Children should be given citizenship however, since it wouldn't be right to blame them for the actions of their parents. Quite frankly, there has to be some price to pay (besides a small fine) for coming here illegally.
  9. Legal immigrant's Avatar
    Clearly this law firm is out of touch with the plethora of polls leading up to this vote, all of which clearly demonstrated the disapproval by the American people. To suggest it was a minority right with donation power, is frankly preposterous and suggests SIskind is either very much on the Dems and the left or, itself has ulterior interestes i.e. the huge business that this legislation would have generated for law firms. To suggest the right had the final advantage is nonsense too. The Seattle Times reports today a pretty fair situation since the Latino groups were deluging the Senate to try to influence the vote. Everyone had their chance to voice their opinion and the American people had the loudest voice (perhaps learning to speak English might help those who wave Mexican Flags!).
    "A flood of angry phone calls from opponents of the bill shut down the Capitol switchboard ahead of the vote, overwhelming the message from a small group of immigrant-rights demonstrators urging passage outside. Latino lawmakers from the House flooded onto the Senate floor to encourage senators to keep the legislation alive and let the House have a turn."
    As a legal immigrant who has only just filed for the Green Card, like the other person who posted here, this legislation was wrong for America and a slap in the face for those who abide by, and have respect for the laws. It has taken me about 7 years to get this far and I'm highly educated, English speaking UK Citizen. You bet I resent CIR, and yes I was one of the callers and signed several petitions.
    Let's secure our borders and enforce current laws. If we did that, illegals crossing our borders would get the message. No one who broke the law (many times over as these people have) should ever be granted the prize of citizenship! And no, I do not believe this bodes well for the Democrats in the next election when Congress approval is at an all time low - 14% and the Dems hold the majority. People are astute enough to separate G. Bush from the rest of the Reps. I think we will also continue to see more raids and more enforcement. Now that's justice!
  10. Can't believe how much hate this country has for fellow human beings! Amazing's Avatar
    For "legal immigrant" state that you are a highly educated UK citizen that applied legally to get the Green Card, then with all due respect I suggest you use your intelligence to research our backward immigration law and try to understand why so many people cross the border to get here illegally. Besides educated people like yourself, this country needs the hard work of those who toil in our fields at low wages so we can afford to eat and still have some left over to spend. It's because of these low skilled workers that we can afford to buy homes because 80% of the times it's these uneducated hard workers that worked on the construction site. Do you have any idea how long it takes for such individuals to legally emigrate from Mexico? I am not Mexican. Like you, I have an MBA for a well-known college here, and got my green card legally through my employer, however, I have studied this broken system enough to realize why we have illegal immigration. Try being a Mexican for one, and have an "Unavailable" visa number, and then we'll talk. Oh yeah, been to a restaurant lately my friend? Who do you think cooked your meal or cleaned your dishes? It's a shame that immigrants like us who claim to be educated can't understand this simple fact that our immigration system is so broken that it forces these people to break the law. It's a simple question of supply and demand, learned that while you were in the UK getting your "higher" education? There's a demand for labor and therefore these people come, no matter what. And yeah, go build your fence with our taxes and then come back a few years down the road and still complain about how they jump the fence or build tunnels and get through.

    I'm not asking for much, just for one day, imagine being a Mexican, in Mexico and see what that feels like. Maybe we should just deport these people so people like you can work the fields and realize how difficult that work is. And yeah, when you reply to this post, please don't make the lame argument that people in the past have come here legally. That argument does not work for people like Greg or myself who have researched the law enough to understand that years and years ago, people did not have to go through what some of immigrants have had to go through now to get here. I can bet you 100% if UK had a border with the U.S, we'll be seeing some of your relatives jump the fence as well.

    And about Democrats Vs. Republicans.....I will make sure I do everything in my power, to get as many vote as I possibly can, in favor of immigrant friendly Democrats and against these racist Republicans. In fact, I'll make it my life long mission to make sure no Republican ever sees the light of presidency again.
  11. Robin Hood's Avatar
    For those who fervently opposed the immigration reform bill, here are some of Ann Coulter's thoughts on the issue. -- We should never legalize illegal aliens, they should leave in the shadows forever because that's what they deserve... they are illegals, right? American people don't want this country to change (read "we white supremacists are not going to let you hispanics take over because that wouldn't be right... after all we are white and you're not")-- Well, no wonder why they call her a nazi wh... Nevertheless, as sad as it sounds, a lot of americans feel that way although they don't have the nerve to loudly proclaim it as Ann Coulter (Heil!) did on O'Reilly. So there you go, this is what all the people who crashed the Senate switchboard are really for, just have some cojones and admit it publicly, and maybe I'll have some respect for you. Yes, you are afraid but too embarassed to say it.
  12. R. Lawson's Avatar
    I just came back from a John Edwards fund raiser - no more than 3 hours ago Senator Edwards who I am a strong supporter of stumped 15 feet from where I stood.

    I cheered as he defended the attacks of Anne Coulter.

    I also opposed the CIR. So don't try and pigeon hole everyone that opposes the CIR proposed as Anne Coulter freaks or right wingers. I clearly don't fit your stereotype. Frankly, I am getting tired of the race card being used when it should not be.
  13. 's Avatar
    I don't understand. John Edwards supports CIR. Only he supports a more liberal version than the one that was just defeated.
  14. Robin Hood's Avatar
    Again, these people that don't support CIR don't make clear what they would support. Building a fence itself is not going to solve a damn thing. We are not going to deport millions and millions of people, it just won't happen. I understand that you people want to punish the lawbreakers ("How dared you come here to work illegally when we made it all convenient for you? Yes, we have laws that we don't enforce so that you can do the work we need you to do"). Put politics aside and face the real economic problem. Congress has done nothing about this for two decades... do you think this is all about punishing people? I can't believe how narrow-minded people can be. If you want to punish somebody, punish the government, your representatives, senators that have "ignored" the problem year after year and can't get it together. All of a sudden everybody is a patriot and wants to enforce the law no matter what. If it was so simple why do you think people spend years learning economics? Get some common sense for God's sake.
  15. R. Lawson's Avatar
    First, CIR was no more than a corporate favor. It was designed primarily with corporations in mind, not immigrants.

    There are many people (who oppose CIR) proposing things other than fences and harsh treatment of illegal/undocumented immigrants.

    I don't believe a fence will make much of a difference in regards to illegal immigration. The only purpose I see with a fence and cameras is to hopefully halt drug shipments.

    I also don't believe we should focus our efforts on deporting immigrant workers (unless they are gang members or violent criminals). Our efforts should be focused on workplace enforcement. And when law enforcement arrives at a workplace they don't need a bus. They need a couple squad cars to haul the managers/CEOs away in.

    I support a more liberal LEGAL immigration program. But it will never work until the laws are enforced.

    As far as John Edwards is concerned, he believes that American workers should be considered in this matter and I support him in that. If I had to pick a politician whom I agree with the most on this issue, it would be (D) Senator Webb. His approach is the most balanced.

    My sole point is that some people, shamefully, try to say that everyone opposing the CIR must be racist and simply hate immigrants. I wouldn't be married to an immigrant if that were the case.
  16. Robin Hood's Avatar
    OK, let's not be naive here, come on! I agree with workplace enforcement, but you cannot do that before regularizing the people that are already working illegally, simply because you will put millions of people out of work thus creating a much worse problem. Fix the mess first and then enforce the law 100% from that point on. If you believe for a second that ICE is going to take the managers and CEOs while leaving the illegal employees alone, then my friend, you might as well believe Tom Tancredo sees eye to eye with Ted Kennedy when it comes to immigration reform.
  17. R. Lawson's Avatar
    "Fix the mess first and then enforce the law 100% from that point on. "

    The "mess" is that corporations don't feel they need to obey the law. I just don't get this. The law breakers have the nerve to ask for one more chance. They want a mulligan. Actually, they want ANOTHER mulligan. The first mulligan was in 1986.

    In any event, you can bet your last dollar that an amnesty bill will quickly pass in both houses soon after enforcement provisions are passed. If you want the most efficient/timely political solution, you should be supporting an enforcement only bill right now. The political winds will have shifted enough once enforcement provisions are enacted that amnesty should be a walk in the park.

    If you want deadlock like we have now, keep asking for amnesty first and enforcement second. That will insure an underclass of exploitable workers and a system that permits their exploitation. The cheap labor lobby would thank you. And the immigrants in the fields would be driven like animals with no labor protections or humane treatment. American workers would continue to see their own wages decline. That's the sort of compromise the US Chamber of Commerce is looking for. Let's all agree to make our lives more difficult.
  18. My two cents's Avatar
    I hate to say it, but I agree with Lawson. I think if we don't get enforcement first, we will never get any bill that deals with other aspects of immigrations, be it regularizing the status of illegals or other things related to employment based or family based immigrations. I do disagree with you Lawson of your statement that afer enforcement first passing an amnesty would be a walk in the park......I think there are enough anti-immigrant senators and congresspersons in Congress that an amnesty will never fly, even if tomorrow you can halt all kinds of immigrants. I believe this is the reason that Senators such and Kennedy and now even Kyl think we need a comprehensive approach, because if they do past enforcement first, they might never address immigration again. At this point, it looks like we have no choice. We have to take a chance and pass enforcement, make sure we get immigration friendly senators and reps. and then lobby for other immigration matters.
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