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Beware of Unintended Consequences

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Shuler-Tancredo Legislation Will Lead to Higher Taxes, Economic Disruption, and Community Divisions – and Won’t Solve the Problem

The last thing Americans want in the midst of a recession is another costly distraction that won’t work. That is precisely what America will get if the hearings on Capitol Hill today on the Shuler-Tancredo anti-immigration bill gain traction and ends up as the law of the land.

“Members of Congress who are looking for political cover by jumping on the anti-immigrant bandwagon are in for a bumpy ride with voters,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, the political communication and rapid response arm of the immigration reform campaign. “Congressmen need only look across the Potomac River to the ill-fated anti-immigrant experiment in Prince William County to see the unintended consequences of the anti-immigrant harvest: higher taxes, a cut in government services, and police chasing bus boys not criminals. The Shuler-Tancredo bill wants to do for America what Corey Stewart has done for Prince William County. Only this time, it will cost the US taxpayer $40 billion, put a strain on our social security system, and make a bad situation worse for the entire country.”

Not only is the proposed federal legislation costly, inefficient and unworkable, but the politics with voters are a dead loser. At the Presidential level: Tancredo, the first to drop out. After running over 12,000 anti-immigrant ads in Iowa and New Hampshire, Mitt Romney, out. The last man standing: John McCain, the only Republican who has historically been a moderate on immigration.

And the list goes on. In 2006 Republicans ginned up anti-immigrant ads and approved a border fence: yet Republicans lost most of the key races in which immigration was a factor. The Virginia local elections in 2007: overwhelming Democratic win against an onslaught of anti-immigrant hysteria. Illinois special election to fill former Speaker Hastert’s Republican seat (Illinois-14): won by Democrat Bill Foster running on a comprehensive immigration reform agenda against Republican Jim Oberweis who made illegal immigration a centerpiece of his campaign. In the recent special election in Louisiana: Democratic candidate Don Cazayoux beat a Republican, Woody Jenkins, whose campaign tried to paint the Democrat as soft on illegal immigration.

“Republicans have been successful so far is convincing many Democrats that immigration is an issue they should be afraid of. However, the evidence simple does not bear out these ‘facts.’ From the special elections in Louisiana-6 and Illinois-14 to the Republican Presidential primary, the Republican strategy on immigration is bankrupt. The electorate is just more intelligent than many in the GOP seem to believe, and they know that snazzy sound bites are no substitute for real solutions,” concluded Sharry.

Not only did Republican presidential candidates who ran on anti-immigrant, “deportation only” platforms lose, but their demagoguery of the issue has driven thousands of Latinos and new citizens to register to vote this year in a way that cannot bode well for the Republican Party. Said Karl Rove in August 2007: “I am worried. You cannot ignore the aspirations of the fastest-growing minority in America.” Not only does the Latino and immigrant vote matter in key states that lie along the road to the White House, but swing voters who are looking for solutions and not empty rhetoric are being turned off by the GOP’s extremist approach.

The question of the year remains whether Senator McCain will be able to hold onto enough of his reform-minded position to attract moderate, swing, and immigrant voters without losing appreciable support from the GOP base. The real story of 2008 is not whether the issue of “illegal immigration” saves the Republican Party, but whether it dooms their White House aspirations for the foreseeable future.