Immigration and the New Congress: Opportunity Knocks

By Stanley Renshon and Stanley Renshon on September 14, 2010

Politico is up with a story whose title's obviousness, "Midterms imperil immigration bill," belies its importance. The story estimates that as many as 17 Senate seats of those who voted at one point or another for "comprehensive immigration reform" and amnesty would change hands.

In keep with conventional formulations, the article says that the potential Senate changes mean that "the Democratic vision of immigration reform, which couples tough border enforcement and a crackdown on employers with plans to legalize 11 million undocumented immigrants, would need to shift much further to the right to stand any chance in a closely divided Senate." (emphasis mine)

A more accurate phasing would say that an immigration bill would have to much better reflect the wishes of a majority of the American public.

The article reports two major responses from amnesty advocates, wishful thinking and fear-mongering. Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a national employer federation pushing for comprehensive reform, is quoted as saying "a turned Senate could be better." How would it be better? Well first it would be better than a change in leadership in the House, which, she says "would frighten me." Apparently having elected Republicans who are in sync with the majority of their fellow countrymen is a scary prospect. Second, according to some advocates, "A slim Democratic majority in the Senate could create an environment in which bipartisan compromise was possible." How would that be possible? Well, "The addition of several Republican moderates in the Senate, such as Mike Castle in Delaware, Mark Kirk in Illinois, Carly Fiorina in California and Dino Rossi in Washington, would broaden the universe of Republican co-sponsors for Democrats to target."

The only problem with this rosy scenario, as the article points out is that, "Castle, Kirk, Fiorina and Rossi are each running on pledges to oppose a legalization program – at least as a starting point."

When wishful think runs up against reality, there is always fear. Abandoning subtlety, and trying to conjure up midnight raids and a line of deportation busses stretching from Maine to Mexico, Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice warned, "At this point, what Latino immigrants are facing is a Republican Congress that will be out for mass deportation."

Those who are part of the growing national American majority consensus on immigration can expect to hear more of these kinds of scare tactics and should be ready to label for what they are: blatant attempts to smear the views of a majority of average Americans. Worse, they are a cruel, and in my view vicious, attempt to instigate fear among legal immigrants, many of whom have family members or relatives who are "out of status."

They have understandable feelings about worrying if their relatives will be led away in handcuffs and deported, which is why those of us within the new consensus are going to have to figure out a humane and reasonable position on this issue, and then have the courage make a public push for it.