Friday, May 16, 2008

GOP dying? Try treating Hispanics with dignity

Peggy Noonan, the poet laureate of the Republican Party and Ronald Reagan's best speechwriter, says that the GOP is dying. And conservatives only have themselves to blame.

From today in The Wall Street Journal:

"Big picture, May 2008:
The Democrats aren't the ones falling apart, the Republicans are. The Democrats can see daylight ahead. For all their fractious fighting, they're finally resolving their central drama. Hillary Clinton will leave, and Barack Obama will deliver a stirring acceptance speech. Then hand-to-hand in the general, where they see their guy triumphing. You see it when you talk to them: They're busy being born.

"The Republicans? Busy dying. The brightest of them see no immediate light. They're frozen, not like a deer in the headlights but a deer in the darkness, his ears stiff at the sound. Crunch. Twig. Hunting party."

Peggy Noonan is right. The GOP faces historical losses in November, and the loss of a congressional seat this week in a Mississippi special election just confirmed the obvious. The GOP's presidential nominee John McCain can also read the demographic tea leaves. The base of the party continues to shrink because Republicans and conservatives have chosen the politics of smallness and selfishness. The gains the party could have made with Hispanic voters after Bush's record haul of that electorate in 2004 could have rescued the party.

But Republicans like Sen. Lamar Alexander and Rep. Marsha Blackburn have chosen to advance their political careers at the expense of the party. They've embraced and pushed the anti-immigrant agenda of talk show hosts and nativists. The 287(g) deportation program in Nashville has produced some of the most inhumane treatment of people in this nation since the Civil Rights movement days and the internment of Japanese-American families during World War II.

Alexander and Blackburn were part of a recent press conference to celebrate the deportation of 3,000 immigrants. (What was Rep. Jim Cooper, a Democrat, doing on that stage for that political farce? It's time to recruit and finance a tough primary opponent for Cooper in 2010. Cooper is about as dynamic as lint on a sticky roller.)

We Hispanic voters and their advocates will not forget that press conference. The only credible person on that stage who spoke was Metro Police Chief Serpas, who criticized the inaction of lawmakers like Alexander, Blackburn and Cooper on resolving immigration issues. It is a federal matter, not something that good Metro police officers should have to deal with.

There is no joy for me in writing this piece about the GOP. This country needs a strong two party system. Actually, it needs three strong parties. Hispanics should be pursued by both parties so that our issues for a better America will be addressed. The almost blind allegiance African-Americans have paid to the Democratic Party has not served their needs well. They've been taken for granted. I've been in the housing projects and on Tennessee's death row to see that fact. Yes, this nation is on the cusp of electing its first black -- or more accurately "bi-racial" -- president. But the steps that have been taken by some Democrats to stop that advancement in favor of Sen. Hillary Clinton have been disillusioning and shocking.

Noonan errs, however, in placing much of the blame for the GOP's supposed death rattle on President Bush. And that makes her part of the GOP's problem as well.

Despite blatant appearances, the GOP has always tried to market itself with the "Big Tent" analogy. Its leaders have contended the party is flexible and open enough to expand the tent when it comes to the diversity of members under it. The GOP can't rely on Cuban-American faces anymore to prove a diversity point. The political advantage Republicans held with Cuban Hispanics in Florida has been diminished by demographics. The number of non-Cuban Hispanics now almost matches the number of Cuban Hispanics. The real difference is that more of the non-Cubans are not eligible to vote in Florida. But time is on their side.

Bush provided the opportunity for Big Tent expansion with his victory in 2004. Yet in his last term, the president simply got tired of fighting fellow Republicans like Alexander and Blakcburn over immigration reform and started sketching out the sunroom addition he wants in retirement for his ranch in Crawford, Texas. To his discredit, he has let the INS run wild with raids of worksites, meanwhile this nation doesn't inspect the shipments coming in from overseas into American ports. He has allowed 287(g) programs for local authorities to enforce this nation's immigration laws. Meanwhile, small business owners and young people in college are getting murdered in Nashville.

Yes, being in the United States illegally is against the law. But it's not a felony. Crossing over into this country illegally is a civil offense. I've sat directly across from Secretary of State Rice and then AG Gonzales in one-on-one interviews. And both told me this nation is using available technology to make sure border crossings are not a terrorist threat. So what's all the concern about non-felony, civil offenses?

The University of Arizona recently compiled a study that showed undocumented workers and their families contribute almost $1 billion more in revenue to Arizona coffers than they take. So cost is not an issue.

Proponents of 287g in Nashville point to three violent crimes committed by undocumented workers in 2006 as the impetus to make sure people illegally in Nashville are deported. Get rid of these people, and you save lives, they say. But if we're supposed to keep tally, undocumented workers have saved more lives than they've taken here. It was the testimony -- in Spanish -- from an undocumented worker that put serial killer Paul Dennis Reid behind bars.

Long-term research from sociologists like Dr. Robert Sampson of Harvard University show that newcomers actually reduce a city's crime rate. His study released in February of violent crime in Chicago from 1990-2004 showed that Mexican-Americans and Mexicanos were not a violent crime problem. If you commit a crime, then you get noticed and get deported. So you obey the laws and keep your nose clean.

Here in Midstate Tennessee, a drunk-driving undocumented worker killed a couple in a traffic accident. It was a tragedy, and I despise the man who committed this grevious offense. He had been arrested for drunk driving or like offenses 14 other times. The sheriff's department sent his name into the Feds for deportation, and Washington did nothing. So instead of forcing Washington and its deportation system to work as it should -- which comes under the responsibility of Alexander and Blackburn and all lawmakers -- the local sheriff chose to become Nashville's lead immigration law enforcer. How much does it cost taxpayers for Nashville to do Washington's job? The local news media has yet to ask the question. But the sheriff is racking up big political points with the program.

The president surrendered to the Alexanders and Blackburns of his party so they could get the immediate gratification from addressing the wailing of the loudest of their constituencies. And word of the inhumanity in Nashville is reaching every Hispanic voter household across this nation. While Alexander and Blackburn will not pay the price in their upcoming re-election bids, the party nationally will. And Alexanders and Blackburns of the GOP will have even less to say about the direction of this nation when they return to Washington. Maybe that's not a bad thing.

The GOP will continue to be around, and very strong in some congressional districts and states. I know a lot of good and decent people who call themselves "Republican". But with three special election losses this year, the number of GOP safe places are shrinking. And rightly, the GOP as a party will suffer for its inhumane and opportunistic approach to immigration and the savaging of Hispanic human beings.


Mr. Mack said...

Tim, first off, welcome back. I must disagree with you about Chief Serpas. I have interviewed him, and find him engaging and intelligent, but his stubborn refusal to engage on 287(g) was maddening for me, as a member of Sheriff Hall's Advisory Counsel.

Chief Serpas insists that arrests for driving without a license is the law and that his officers must make physical arrests if they "feel there is a likelihood that the offender won't show up in court".

He and Sheriff Hall have successfully thwarted any real scrutiny of this program by ping-ponging questions about ultimate responsibility for how the program is implemented and carried out.

For my Children said...

It is a matter of protocol. We are a civilized nation after all. When a foreign national is arrested for a felony, federal oversight insures that we don't have his nation's embassy calling in regards to the Geneva Convention rules. If he is is charged with a felony, we prosecute. Deportation is less than a slap on the hand, it is a "time out".
We don't want Americans overseas to be subject to arbitrary rules and processes---so everyone plays by the rules. The purpose in calling the justice department regarding "criminal aliens" is to assure proper protocol and due process is followed.
If Nashville law is to "arrest", for identification reasons, People who are suspected of nothing more than a misdemeanor which does not carry a jail sentence, why isn't anyone doing anything about this?
If the arrest was for a "spitting on the sidewalk" offense why isn't there at least a dozen young and upcoming attorneys all over this? Is there probable cause or reasonable suspicion or is this an "Okie law" intentionally designed to punish the undesirables or to oppress or banish a people?