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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Two Republican Faces on Immigration

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Jim Sensenbrenner
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If you were to believe some newspaper reports from the state Republican convention over the weekend, you’d think Wisconsin congressmen Paul Ryan and Jim Sensenbrenner were on opposite sides of a dramatic split within the Republican Party on immigration reform.

That’s what you get for believing some newspaper reports.

There’s very little real difference behind the new, improved rhetoric of Ryan and some other Republicans on immigration rights and the mean-spirited hate speech of Sensenbrenner Republicans that was the party’s position before last year’s election.

All that’s really changed since President Barack Obama won more than 70% of the Latino vote in November is Republicans running for president such as Ryan decided they shouldn’t talk so hatefully about Latinos.

That doesn’t necessarily mean voting any less despicably. Ryan and other Republican leaders repeatedly say they don’t intend to moderate their political positions, just soften their rhetoric.

As Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, told reporters at the convention: “I don't think it's a matter of moderation. It's like what our moms used to say. It's not what you say. It's how you say it.”

Actually, most of our moms were better people than that. They told us we should really mean what we say, a totally alien concept in politics.

Well, old-style Republican Sensenbrenner is cranky enough he doesn’t feel any need to pretty up the extreme, anti-immigration policies he’s pushed in the past to inflame his white, suburban, Republican constituents.

In 2005, Sensenbrenner succeeded in getting the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to pass one of the most vicious, anti-immigration bills in United States history.

Most people, hearing the slur “illegals” used to describe undocumented immigrants, don’t realize violating immigration restrictions is not literally a crime. It’s a civil violation, similar to receiving a ticket, although one with dire consequences such as being held in detention and then deported.

Sensenbrenner’s bill would have criminalized undocumented immigration, making it a felony. That could have resulted in the incarceration of an estimated 11 or 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

That wouldn’t just have been racist and cruel. It would have been an economy-destroying national disaster. We’re already struggling to reduce the wasteful expense of the highest incarceration rate in the world from imprisoning 2.2 million people in all federal, state and local facilities.

Sensenbrenner’s bill also would have prosecuted anyone who ran a soup kitchen feeding undocumented immigrants or giving shelter or assistance to them in any way.

The House passed Sensenbrenner’s bill 239-182 and, yes, Ryan supported it. Fortunately for all of us, the bill died in the Senate.

At the state convention, Sensenbrenner continued his opposition to any reform to give undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.

He echoed the fraudulent claim of other Republicans that a drawn-out process taking 13 years for immigrants living here to become citizens would somehow put them in front of legal applicants.

Sensenbrenner said it could take 25 years for someone from Mexico to legally become a citizen. Actually, the current backlog is about eight years, according to immigration advocates. An immigration process that takes a quarter of a century would be more of a non-immigration process.

 

Paul Ryan Uses ‘Anchor Baby’ Slur

But could young, ambitious Republicans such as Ryan now supporting immigration reform lead to less racist, immigrant-friendly party leadership in the future? Hardly.

Hollow rhetoric won’t make Latinos forget the lockstep votes of Republicans—including Ryan—to criminalize them, tear apart their families and deny them education, health care and police protection.

Even while posing as an advocate for a path to citizenship at Wisconsin town hall meetings last week, Ryan couldn’t avoid racial stereotyping and an offensive slur about Latinos before white, Republican audiences.

The Milwaukee media didn’t report it, but national news outlets and the Latino press reported Ryan’s use of the slur “anchor babies” to refer to children born in the U.S. to undocumented parents.

“They call it anchor babies, which is when a person comes, has a child here,” Ryan said. “If you’re born here, you’re a naturalized citizen...illegal immigration is fairly easy, and then people are having what’s called anchor babies.”

Actually, it’s racists who call them that, as in “crossing the border and dropping anchor babies.”

And children born in the U.S. are not “naturalized” citizens. They are U.S. citizens. That’s been true, regardless of a child’s heritage, ever since the adoption of the 14th Amendment in 1868.

Ryan’s vice presidential campaign bombed by exposing his habitual public dishonesty to the national media, which totally dismantled it.

In an odd way, that helps Ryan with tea party extremists as he runs for president. Ryan is free to try to attract Latinos by pretending to publicly support immigration rights because the far right knows he doesn’t really mean it.

The problem for Ryan and the Republican Party is Latinos know it, too.

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