Saturday, December 24, 2005

Today's Times has an article about anti-immigration Congressman Tom Tancredo:

For nearly a decade, Representative Tom Tancredo, Republican of Colorado, has been dismissed by his critics as little more than an angry man with a microphone, a lonely figure who rails against immigration and battles his own president and party.

So radical were his proposals - calling for a fence along the United States border with Canada, for instance - and so fierce were his attacks on fellow Republicans who did not share his views that many of his colleagues tried to avoid him. Mr. Tancredo said Karl Rove, President Bush's senior adviser, had told him not "to darken the doorstep of the White House."

But last week, the man denounced by critics on the left and on the right suddenly emerged as an influential lawmaker. Pressured by conservative constituents angered by the continuing flow of illegal immigrants into the United States, Republicans rallied around Mr. Tancredo to defy the president and produce the toughest immigration legislation in more than a decade.

Mr. Tancredo and his allies fought successfully to strip the measure of any language offering support for Mr. Bush's plan to provide temporary legal status for illegal immigrants working in the United States. And he helped win support for provisions that once seemed unthinkable to many lawmakers, like the construction of five fences across 698 miles of the United States border with Mexico.

Mr. Tancredo did not get everything he wanted. He still wants a moratorium on legal immigration, soldiers on the border, a longer fence (and one along the border with Canada) as well as a law that would deny citizenship to children born to parents who are not citizens or permanent residents. And many Republicans and Democrats say it seems unlikely that the border security bill passed by the House last week will become law in its current form, if it ever becomes law at all.

But as a jubilant Mr. Tancredo returned to his office here this week, there was little doubt that he had become a symbol of the ascendancy of deeply conservative thinkers in the bitter Republican debate over immigration policy....

The border security measure would make it a federal crime to live in the United States illegally, which would turn millions of immigrants into felons, ineligible to win any legal status. The bill would make it a crime for employees of social service agencies and church groups to shield or offer support to illegal immigrants.

The legislation would also require the mandatory detention of some immigrants, would withhold some federal aid from cities that provide immigrants with services without checking their legal status and would decrease the number of legal immigrants admitted annually by eliminating a program that provides 50,000 green cards each year.

"This is a gesture to the xenophobic wing of the party, and that is alarming," said Cecilia Muñoz, a vice president at the National Council of La Raza. "It threatens extraordinary harm to people."
Well, some of Tancredo's proposals are clearly clearly nonsense. A fence on the border with Canada? A moratorium on legal immigration? Theres no faster way to run the US high tech and research industries into the ground. One only has to walk into the offices of most high tech companies in the United States - or most research labs - to observe that a minority of the people who work there were born in the United States. Preventing people from being born in the United States from becoming US citizens? It would turn the US into a miniature version of some European countries (e.g. Germany) with a substantial population of second-class noncitizens.

Even some of the provisions in the passed bill are offensive. A law to prevent church groups from aiding illegal immigrants? I don't know the details of this, but it sounds like an obvious violation of personal freedoms. A cut in the amount of green cards issued to immigrants already here legally? Perhaps such a move is justified, but Tancredo's anti-immigration rants do not provide any good reasons.

On the other hand, many of provisions in the passed bill seem to make good sense. Why is a fence on the border with Mexico an unreasonable proposal? Fences of this sort have proven to be good at preventing inflitration across the border - see the Israeli security fence for example. As for some of the other measures, should not the government use every means at its disposal to find illegal immigrants and to deport them?

Its somewhat surprising that one cannot find politicians with reasonable views on immigration in the US political landscape. On the one hand, you have politicians like Tancredo, who rail against immigration, making no distinction between legal and illegal immigrants. Fueled primarily by xenophobia, they manage to make minor successes here and there, though never much on the national stage where both parties compete for the votes of hispanics. On the other hand, you have some politicians who are friendly to immigration, but unwilling to get tough on the flow of illegal immigration across the border.


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