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Memo to the Candidates: Immigration, Seriously?

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Seriously, it’s about time the candidates started talkingabout immigration again.  But now, can wetalk about it seriously?

A New York Times editorial published Fridaytook both Sen.John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama to task for the way inwhich they’ve approached the issue of comprehensive immigration reform inSpanish-language campaign ads this month. 

John McCain started the back-and-forth bickering.  In Spanish, he accused Obama of killing lastyear’s attempt at immigration reform by voting for a series of “poison pill”amendments, a claim the New York Times called “a jaw-dropping distortion. Thebill wasn’t killed by any amendments. It was killed by a firestorm oftalk-radio rage and a Republican-led filibuster. The very bill that Mr. McCainnow mourns is the one he sidled away from as his own party weakened and killedit. It’s the one he says he would now vote against.”

It’s really too bad that John McCain has backed away from his earlier leadershipon immigration reform. Unfortunately, he felt that he had to pander to theanti-immigration elements of his own party to become their nominee. But to turnaround and try to blame Obama and the Democrats for the failure of reform—afterhis own party blocked the bill in 2006 AND 2007—is breathtakingly false.

Unfortunately Obama’s response ad, also in Spanish, raisessome credibility concerns of its own. The Obama ad tries to link John McCain toright-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh, a foe of immigration reform, and uses somesalacious quotes from Limbaugh to stir the pot. Though over-the-top, the quoteswere taken out of context, and many pundits and truth-squaders are chatteringabout the ad.

But if the Obama campaign had done just a little more research,they would have found a “treasure trove” of quotes from anti-immigrant conservatives,including Limbaugh, that show why the GOP has tacked hard right on the issueand abandoned Latino and immigrant families in the bargain. Clearly they arescared of the angry and vocal anti-immigrant fringe that is making a move on theGOP, and so far succeeding. Take a look at these quotes:  

·        “So invasive species like mollusks andspermatozoa are not good, and we’ve got a federal judge say, ‘You can’t bringit in here,’ but invasive species in the form of illegal immigration is fineand dandy ‑ bring ’em on, as many as possible, legalize them wherever we can,wherever they go, no matter what they clog up. So we’re going to break thebank; we’re going to bend over backwards. The federal judiciary is going to doeverything it can to stop spermatozoa and mollusks from coming in, but otherinvasive species? We’re supposed to bend over and grab the ankles and say,‘Deal with it.’ … We’re not going to be able to bring ’em in now, but invasivespecies that, say, on their own power and of their own desire and volitioncross the border and come here, we can’t say diddly-squat about it.” – RushLimbaugh, “The Rush Limbaugh Show,” April 1, 2005

·        On theother side, you have people who hate America, and they hate it because it’s runprimarily by white, Christian men. Let me repeat that. America is run primarilyby white, Christian men, and there is a segment of our population who hatesthat, despises that power structure. So they, under the guise of being compassionate,want to flood the country with foreign nationals, unlimited, unlimited, tochange the complexion ‑ pardon the pun ‑ of America. Now, that’s hatred, too.”‑ BillO’Reilly, “Bill O’Reilly” radio show, May 29, 2007, speaking aboutpeople who wanted to ease restrictions in a Senate immigration bill

·        “The American majority is not reproducingitself. Its birthrate has been below replacement level for decades. Forty-fivemillion of its young have been destroyed in the womb since Roe v. Wade,as Asian, African, and Latin American children come to inherit the estate thelost generation of American children never got to see. . . . our minoritypopulation rose 2.4 million to exceed 100 million. Hispanics, 1 percent of theU.S. population in 1950, are now 14.4 percent. Since 2000, their numbers havesoared 25 percent to 45 million. The U.S. Asian population grew by 24 percentsince 2000, as the number of white kids of school age fell 4 percent. Half thechildren five and younger today are minority children….The Anglo population ofCalifornia is down to 43 percent and falling fast. White folks are now aminority in Texas and New Mexico. In Arizona, Hispanics account for more thanhalf the population under twenty. The America Southwest is returning to Mexico.”‑ Pat Buchannan, “Day of Reckoning: HowHubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart”

·        “The Statue of Liberty is crying, she’s beenraped and disheveled ‑ raped and disheveled by illegal aliens, and ourpoliticians do nothing except give themselves big fat checks and big fat jobs.”– MichaelSavage, “The Savage Nation,” Aug. 4, 2008

But setting aside the he said/he said, here’s the real deal.Two aggressive immigration ads later, we’re no closer to talking about realsolutions to the broken immigration system. As stated in today’s New York Times editorial, “Meanwhile, the Bushadministration keeps raiding factories and farms, terrorizing immigrantfamilies while exposing horrific accounts of workplace abuses. Children toil inslaughterhouses; detainees languish in federal lockups, dying without decentmedical care. Day laborers are harassed and robbed of wages. An ineffectiveborder fence is behind schedule and millions over budget. Local enforcers dragcitizens and legal residents into their nets, to the cheers of the Minutemen.”

We at America’s Voice would like to offer thischallenge to both candidates: Be honest with us. Use the time remaining in yourcampaigns ‑ and the upcoming Presidential debates ‑ to tell us your plan forimmigration reform. How will you design it, how will you pass it into law, andhow will you implement it, so that we can once again be both a nation ofimmigrants and a nation of laws? 

We’ll be watching.