The Elections and Immigration Policy

By David North, November 9, 2009

When you look at the November election returns as they impact immigration policy, the results are not just apples and oranges, they are: one apple, two oranges – and in the distant Western Pacific, a split coconut.

In the four contests of interest only one produced an official who can actually vote on immigration matters – that's the apple and he‘s Bill Owens, the new Democratic House member from the 23rd district in far up-state New York. He's likely to follow the Obama line on immigration policy.

Owens, who won only because of a Republican Party split, may not be a long-term member of the House given the usual politics of this part of the state.

The two oranges are the new mainland Republican governors, Robert McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey.

McDonnell wants to expand the cooperation between state and federal immigration officials involved in the 287(g) program, and his Democratic opponent did not. Further, the newly-elected Republican Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, often talked about his worry about illegal aliens, as his Democratic opponent in Virginia did not.

There was less talk about immigration policy in immigrant-heavy New Jersey, but Christie announced his opposition to in-state college tuition fees for illegal aliens, while his opponent, Gov. Corzine, disagreed.

The split coconut metaphor applies to the hard-fought but generally-ignored gubernatorial election in the string of U.S. flag islands just north of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

Here immigration policy was a major, major issue as the federal government will start to take over the islands' immigration policy later this month, as I reported in an earlier blog. For decades the Congress, under a Covenant it carelessly signed with the islands' politicians, had allowed the islanders to run their own immigration policy, with disgraceful results, in terms of exploitation of foreign workers in sweatshops, and with explosive results as far as the population of the islands is concerned.

The sitting governor, Benigno Fitial, is an old chum of Jack Abramoff and a life-long proponent of what might best be called an "Open Beaches" policy – as there are no land borders in the CNMI. He made a major issue of what is locally called "federalization" of the immigration law, and he sued the federal government over the matter. He is with the Covenant Party.

His opponent, the Republican candidate and a long-time legislator, carries a name left over from the brief German rule of these islands a hundred years ago. He is Heinz Hofschneider, a reformer and a non-opponent of federalization. There was no Democratic candidate but there were two independent ones. These are both named Guerrero, as there seems to be a shortage of last names in the islands. (A few years ago both nominees for governor were named Tenorio, both open beaches types, with the uncle beating the nephew.)

In the Saturday (Nov. 7) election Hofschneider barely eked out a seven-vote margin over the governor, 4,899 to 4,892; there will be run off in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately the open beaches Guerrero got two-and-a-half times as many votes as the pro-federalization Guerrero and the former is likely to endorse the sitting governor.

Thus a couple of weeks from now there may well be some comforting news for the now-imprisoned Jack Abramoff, who received millions for his lobbying for the CNMI and its sweatshops. It was Abramoff's agents who, six years ago, used some congressional earmarks to swing the election of Fitial as Speaker of the CNMI House of Representatives; the loser in that race? ... one Heinz Hofschneider.