National Review Online, October 3, 2003
If you wanted a way of persuading Republican congressmen to support something, the last thing you'd do is have the AFL-CIO organize a bus convoy of illegal aliens appropriating the rhetoric of the civil-rights movement, endorsed by the Communist party.
And yet, this is just what the open-border crowd has done. Busloads of "Freedom Riders" converged on Capitol Hill Thursday and are now headed for New York. The group will meet at Liberty State Park in Jersey City today and go to Queens on Saturday to press its list of demands, including amnesty for illegal aliens, higher levels of legal immigration, and an end to the distinction between citizens and non-citizens.
Now, Democrats already support these demands, as you can see from the list of endorsers, which encompasses all the usual suspects including: Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, Joe Lieberman, Charlie Rangel, the ACLU, MALDEF, the Service Employees International Union, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Noam Chomsky, Martin Sheen, Susan Sarandon, and the Communist Party USA (note the helpful link to the CPUSA at the Freedom Ride site).
Apparently, this was too far-out even for the Republicans in Congress who have sponsored various illegal-alien amnesty bills - including senators Larry Craig, Orin Hatch, and John McCain, and representatives Chris Cannon, Jim Kolbe, and Jeff Flake; none of them appears to have openly endorsed the Freedom Rides or appeared at yesterday's Capitol Hill rally.
Clearly, this stunt was aimed at garnering sob stories from a sympathetic media and recruiting labor-union members, not actually moving legislation. The success of the second objective is unclear, but the first goal has clearly been met; a Nexis search of "freedom rides" turned up more than 200 stories just in the past week, with gems like "On they go, so they can stay," and "Immigrants Ride for Rights."
What no reporter seems to have asked is what black Americans think of this hijacking of one of the most powerful images of the civil-rights movement. Now, the black political elite has endorsed the rides, including the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Southern Christian Leadership Council. (Interestingly, the sponsor of the original Freedom Rides in 1961, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) is not on the list of endorsers.)
But the disconnect between the black political elite and the people it claims to represent is nowhere wider than on immigration. A Zogby poll taken shortly before 9/11 found that blacks opposed an illegal-alien amnesty at about the same rate as whites and Hispanics. And a September Field Poll in California found that a majority of blacks opposed driver's licenses for illegal aliens.
But apart from the policy gap, the very fact that illegal aliens are hijacking the terminology of a brave struggle for liberty by American citizens is an abomination. The real Freedom Riders traveled the South to challenge Jim Crow segregation in restrooms, restaurants, and other public facilities; a mob in Alabama attacked them, set one of the buses on fire, and beat some of the fleeing passengers. Other Civil Rights protesters, of course, faced police dogs, high-pressure hoses, and firebombs. The idea that lobbying for amnesty is in any way comparable to this is ludicrous, and yet Rep. John Lewis did just that in the Washington Post, describing the current effort as "a movement that carries the struggle for civil rights for all forward into the new century."
But defending the interests of black Americans is not on the agenda of the open-borders movement. An op-ed by Harold Meyerson in Thursday's Washington Post spelled out quite clearly that the Left sees mass immigration as a way to promote more socialism:
. . .the transformation of California politics unleashed by the entry of immigrants into politics - a transformation that a Schwarzenegger victory can delay but not deny - is already responsible for enactment of the first paid family-leave program in the land and the likely enactment (if, as expected, Davis signs the bill this week) of mandated employer-financed health coverage. In this, California's new immigrants are following the path laid out by the immigrant activists of the last century, who provided much of the vision and support for the policies that became the core of the New Deal.
Unless immigration policy is changed soon, the next Freedom Ride won't have to worry about persuading Republicans - because they will no longer matter.