Dems guilty of ‘political cowardice’ on immigration
Published in the Chicago Sun-Times on November 26, 2007
by Teresa Puente
Remember Willie Horton? He was the convicted rapist who was allowed out on a weekend pass and attacked another woman while Michael Dukakis was governor of Massachusetts. Playing to white America’s fear of black men, Horton was used in a campaign ad against Dukakis when he ran for president in 1988. It probably cost him the election.
Fast forward almost 20 years. Illegal immigrants are the new Willie Hortons of this campaign season. They are being used to rile up American fears of Mexicans and the Latinization of the United States.
Republicans are having a field day taking a hard line and blaming illegal immigrants for everything wrong with this country. Demo-crats, afraid they will also lose big, are too sheepish to take a stand on immigration.
“It’s a kind of political cowardice,” said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “We need people to speak the truth on these issues and not run scared.”
Instead of bashing Republicans, who won’t change their hard line on immigration, immigrant advocates are now going after U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Democratic chief strategist, who they say has betrayed the immigrant community.
They’re furious Emanuel has called immigration the new “third rail of politics,” a topic so charged it could result in political death. They are running ads in Spanish, Polish and Korean slamming Emanuel.
“There’s a lack of leadership. There’s a lack of action,” said Young Sun Song, a community organizer with the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center in Chicago.
Emanuel said Democrats will not give up on immigration reform. But immigrant advocates charge he is backtracking.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is doing it, too. First she kind of said yes, then she said no on giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, an idea proposed and then nixed by New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
Clinton and Congress need to stop flip-flopping and propose real solutions. They failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year. As a result, we have chaos with states and cities proposing everything from asking landlords to play immigration police to the driver’s license proposal.
Yes, we do need secure borders. Nobody is calling for open borders. Yes, we also need comprehensive immigration reform to legalize many of the people who are law-abiding and contributing to our economy. So what’s the alternative?
Kick out all the illegal immigrants in a nationwide raid. Practically, that won’t work, and it would have a devastating effect on our economy. Are you willing to pay $5 for a head of lettuce? Are you willing to pay $12 for a sandwich? This is the kind of inflation we could see without the illegal immigrant work force.
Another cost: Namby-pamby politicians risk losing the legal immigrant vote.
The number of legal immigrants applying for citizenship doubled to 1.4 million in fiscal year 2007. Many have illegal immigrant relatives and are likely to vote for candidates who support amnesty for their families.
Immigrants and their children are and always will be part of the American fabric. For the first time this year, the Census Bureau found two Latino surnames — Garcia and Rodriguez — are among the top 10 most common last names in the United States. In the Chicago area, two-thirds of the Latino population are citizens.
Most Americans are ashamed of the way immigrants have been treated in the past — from Japanese internment to bigotry against the Irish and the Italians.
We need a real leader to step forward, one who isn’t afraid to defend immigrants. We need a leader to remind us how immigrants have — and will — strengthen our, and their, homeland.