Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Immigrants' List PAC: Cheapening the Immigration Debate

Immigration "Hall of Shame" a cheap stunt

Considering the amount of public support for an Arizona-style immigration law, one would think that groups like the Immigrants' List PAC wouldn't be so interested in picking a fight with lawmakers on the topic.

Apparently not.

In a media conference, the group inducted 10 US lawmakers into its "hall of shame". Those law makers were:

1. Representative Steve King - Republican, Iowa
2. Representative Lamar Smith - Republican, Texas
3. Representative Ed Royce - Republican, California
4. Representative Peter King - Republican, New York
5. Representative Michelle Bachmann - Republican, Minnesota
6. Representative Brian Bilbray - Republican, California
7. Senator John Boozman - Republican, Arizona
8. Representative Heath Shuler - Democrat, North Carolina
9. Representative Candice Miller - Republican, Michigan
10. Represenative Ben Quayle - Republican, Arizona

The individual on this list who has been most vocal has been Lamar Smith. He basically described the list as the last resort of a group battling against the tide of reality.

“Those who oppose enforcing the law often turn to name-calling when they do not have the facts on their side," Smith insisted.

Smith also pointed out that the issues are distinctly not on the side of these groups. In particular, Smith pointed to the problem of so-called "anchor babies" -- children concieved in Mexico and then born in the US -- as exploiting a Constitutional loop hole in order to circumvent immigration law.

“It is unfair to grant automatic citizenship to children of illegal immigrants because it undermines the intention of the 14th Amendment, encourages illegal immigration and costs taxpayers," Smith declared. "Passing a law to eliminate birth citizenship is constitutional and would help deter illegal immigration.”

Now this isn't to say that Immigrants' List PAC didn't have any legitimate points. In fact, their objections to the words of Steve King are entirely justified.

In 2008, King proposed that electrified barbed wire be run across the top of a border wall separating the United States from Mexico. In his comments, delivered from the floor of the House of Representatives, he compared illegal immigrants to livestock.

“We can also electrify this wire with the kind of current that wouldn’t kill somebody but it would simply be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it,” King announced. “We do that with livestock all the time.”

Although its vital that the US do something to curtail illegal immigration, electrified barbed wire is simply going too far. Comparing illegal immigrants to livestock is simply crass. Suggesting they should be handled like livestock is purely unacceptable.

“Politicians like Steve King — who compare people seeking a better life to ‘livestock’ — appeal to people’s worst instincts,” declared PAC director Amy Novick. “And in doing so, they prevent the reform Americans want.”

Novick claims she speaks for the majority of Americans, but in fact speaks only for herself and her group. The majority of Americans have consistently polled in favour of Arizona-styled immigration law.

“We need reform that unites families, promotes fair employment practices and restores America’s place as a nation that welcomes those seeking freedom from persecution and a better way of life,” Novick continued.

Many Americans would likely agree with most of this. US immigration law needs to welcome those seeking a better life and needs to promote fair employment practices by compelling immigrants to enter the country legally. Many Americans -- maybe even those in regions with economies heavily-dependent on immigrant labour -- may even support making it easier for immigrants to enter the country legally.

Many Americans may even support reforms to reunite families, provided that they don't follow the Canadian example of admitting too many individuals who then become dependent on the state.

But as Lamar Smith would point out, Amy Novick and Immigrants' List PAC need to become more responsive to the fundamental realities driving demand for immigration reform in the United States.

All of the "Halls of Shame" inductions in the world won't excuse them from that responsibility.

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