Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Rhetoric versus Reality

Congressional Quarterly reports that the Republican Party is targeting freshman Congressional Democrats on the issue of immigration. (http://www.cqpolitics.com/wmspage.cfm?docID=news-000002694369) Many of these Democrats come from rural districts where the electorate tends to be conservative. As previously reported, the Repubs are trying to push pieces of legislation onto the floor of the House of Representatives in order to try to tag vulnerable Democrats as being soft on illegal immigration. The irony is that the CQ article ends by noting that one of the farmers in a targeted district is decrying the fact that he can't find enough workers to harvest his crops. This is consistent with the hypocrisy of the Republican strategy on immigration. On the one hand they want to force debate on the odious SAVE legislation which is all hammer, nothing but enforcement on immigration, but offers nothing in the way of mitigation for the undocumented workers currently in the United States. At the same time the same politicos who want to wage a war of attrition against these very same workers are up in arms to increase the number of agricultural workers allowed into the country to do the dirty work that American workers refuse to take.

Immigration belongs to the jurisdiction of Congress and the Executive Branch

What is equally striking is that so-called local enforcement measures are being pushed by the Immigration and Custom Enforcement ("ICE"). ICE is pushing local officials to become actively involved in immigration enforcement. While nativists applaud these "local efforts" they also decry the fact that the lack of farm workers and the fact that the states have too much power in processing the inflow of immigrant labor. Conservative pundit, Paul Weyrich, states, "That said, all visas should be run through the Federal Government, not through individual states, because immigration belongs to the jurisdiction of Congress and the Executive Branch." "The Farm Worker Shortage, Immigration and a Probable Solution" By Paul Weyrich, (Wednesday, February 13, 2008). This all results from a shortage of farm labor:

The Bush Administration declared that it offered the proposal because Congress failed to pass the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. The proposal would allow the Administration to address a shortage of legal farm workers. The Department of Labor (DOL) estimates that about 75,000 foreign workers participated in the H-2A visa program last year, while somewhere between 600,000 and 800,000 undocumented laborers worked illegally on American farms. I suspect the numbers for the latter group are much higher than those DOL cites.

(Weyrich) Indeed, the Department of Labor notes that that the country requires close to a million farm workers a year. The overwhelming number of these workers are undocumented and any real enforcement against these workers would meet with resistance from the agro-industrial producers who are a bedrock of the Republican Party. The rank hypocrisy in these policies should provide some cover for Democrats who want to push back on the immigration issue. As eristic ragemail has previously argued, a principled stand on immigration, one which addresses all facets of the issue and takes a humanitarian approach to undocumented workers living in this country, is not the wedge issue that Republicans like to trumpet. One strategy may well be to hold up H-2A visas in exchange for some reason on that small part of the Republican Party that doesn't make its living on stoking hatred. This country depends greatly on undocumented workers and to treat them like criminals is not only wrong-headed, it is morally repugnant.

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