tags: Análisis

Misunderstandings and Agreements

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19/05/10 a 12:38pm por Maribel Hastings

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Univision-sponsored forum about Arizona SB 1070 demonstrated many things. One of them: whatever the differences between proponents and opponents of the new law (and of immigration reform), both sides agree that the federal government’s inaction on immigration has given rise to actions like the recent events in Arizona.

Another: As everyone knows, some Latinos support SB 1070 and oppose reform. It’s good to listen to a variety of opinions, but I never cease to be alarmed by the disdain with which some Latinos who are already permanent residents or citizens talk about undocumented immigrants. They speak with the firm conviction that they, because they have their papers, would never be detained by the authorities in Arizona or other places that might pass similar bills.

One ranted on about the “illegals.” I wonder what would happen if he were lined up next to a group of blond, blue-eyed undocumented immigrants. Does he think he wouldn’t be the victim of racial profiling then?

But I digress.

The forum vividly exposed the divisions, but everyone agreed that the issue should have been faced long before now, and that the federal government’s abdication of responsibility has given license to people like Joe Arpaio—even supporting the sheriff by renewing his 287(g) agreement allowing his local officers to act as immigration agents.

SB 1070 was born of this inaction, and the risk remains that it will be enacted in other states.

This is why the majority of people in the United States support SB 1070: without any alternative, they’ll endorse anything they think could solve the problem.

Many ask why the Democrats need cooperation from Republicans to advance immigration reform when they control Congress and the White House, and managed to pass health-care reform without Republican help.

First of all, health-care reform is not immigration reform. Simply put, not all Democrats support immigration reform. In 2007, 15 Democrats helped “kill” the reform bill being considered at the time by voting against ending debate on the bill. Fifteen votes: more than the number required to get to 60 and advance the bill.

Some Republicans accuse Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi of wanting to avoid bringing any immigration reform bill to the floor after what happened in 2007. And it’s true. Why? Because the Democrats won a House majority in 2006 by winning seats in moderate and conservative districts, and they think only by opposing reform (or dodging the issue) will they be able to keep their seats and their party’s majority.

But Republicans shouldn’t throw stones. A Republican who tries to offer sensible solutions and work in a bipartisan fashion ends up a marked man. More than one of them can testify to that. So they choose to appeal to their reactionary, anti-reform base, while somehow thinking they can continue to pursue the Latino vote.

Former Republican Senator Mel Martinez, whose support for immigration reform cost him dearly with the right of his party, said in an interview that “when immigration comes up, it seems to me that a lot of people express themselves in ways that make Hispanics uncomfortable.” “Uncomfortable” doesn’t begin to cover the feelings of the Hispanic community, especially in Arizona.

So the status quo that everyone condemns serves as a convenient political excuse: for Republicans to stir up the base (even though they perpetuate their anti-Hispanic image by doing so); and for Democrats to blame Republicans for inaction.

The excuses will continue as long as they’re not hurting Democrats at the polls. Last week, multiple polls found that growing numbers of Latinos disapprove of Barack Obama and the Democrats’ handling of the immigration issue, but continue to support them in great numbers.

SB 1070 has revived the subject of immigration reform once again. I hope it doesn’t end up serving as political ammunition for both parties and a distraction that keeps immigration reform from the extensive attention it deserves.