The furious debate over national immigration policies is getting ugly. It's turning into a mob mentality fed by superstition, racism, rightwing demagoguery, false hopes and political indecision and infighting in Congress.
While Congress squabbles over whether to revive President Bush's proposed reforms, impatient politicians in the states are concocting their own immigration regulations to be enforced locally.
At last count, a total of 1,169 pieces of legislation have been introduced in state legislatures this year—up from 461 in 43 states last year.
This is madness.
The principal beneficiaries of a crazy-quilt patchwork of laws would be lawyers challenging the constitutionality and due process of legislation that properly is a federal responsibility, not the states'.
Wafting up from this disputatious national chaos is the acrid odor of redneck racism, fed by the likes of one-time presidential candidate and Nixon speech writer, Pat ("Pitchfork Army") Buchanan. In recent weeks, he has been spewing warnings about a coming "Third World invasion" of the United States if 12 million illegal immigrants aren't dealt with and the nation sealed off from the world. This is an appeal to racism.
Other politicians and rightwing radio talk show hosts have created indefensible false hopes by suggesting the government could round up and deport those 12 million, end the crisis by filling those millions of stoop labor jobs with American workers.
Then there's Arizona, where Republican legislators have sent Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano a bill, called the nation's toughest, to allow the state to shut down any business that knowingly hired illegal aliens twice. Laughably, the bill requires Arizona firms to check workers against a national database called the Basic Pilot Project. Washington's databases are notoriously years out of date and unreliable.
Among the most hypocritical arguments of states to enact punitive measures against companies hiring illegals is that American jobs must be protected from low-skill, undocumented workers. Yet, states have done nothing about U.S. companies shifting hundreds of thousands of Americans' jobs overseas.
All in all, opponents of President Bush's bill don't have much in their arguments. If they defeat the legislation because it provides a path to citizenship for illegals, the status quo to which they object continues.
Instead of daydreaming about an impossible mass deportation, politicians should accept the presence of the 12 million, accelerate ways of making them citizens rather than outlaws, acknowledge benefits from jobs they perform and focus on preventing illegal border crossings.