Thanks to Matthew Kolken, whom I greatly respect and admire, for drawing attention, in his comment in the May 16 issue of ID, to Michael Barone's article: "Obama's Hypocritical Rhetoric on Immigration Reform", published in Real Clear Politics on May 16. If there were a publication with the name "Real Down and Dirty Politics", Barone's article would be a good fit, because it shows what kind of an attack we can expect from the right against Obama on immigration reform, and beyond that, what kind of vision of immigration reform we can expect from a Fox News commentator and American Heritage Foundation analyst.
First, Barone makes the charge that Obama helped to kill the immigration reform bill in the Senate in 2007 by voting for union backed "bill killing" amendments. We should believe this only when Donald Trump produces Obama's original birth certificate - from Kenya. The amendment that is now being denounced by the right ex post facto as a "bill killer", or poison pill, is one that would have sunset the guest worker program after five years. OK, so maybe the unions were against making this program permanent. Many other pro-reform Democratic Senators also voted for guest worker sunset, including Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer. They were not trying to kill CIR.
And did this amendment actually kill the CIR bill? What an absurd rewriting of history. First, let's remember that many Republicans were against any guest worker program at all. They didn't trust the "guest workers" to go home after their stay in the US was up. Therefore, sunsetting this program after five years was more likely to attract Republican support than to earn Republican opposition. But more importantly, the guest worker program, while important, was not the issue that killed the CIR bill. What killed it was the legalization provision, which was overcome by a tsunami of denunciations under Lou Dobb's (remember him?) slogan "No Amnesty for Illegals" (so close in spirit and intent of another famous anti-immigrant slogan of 150 years ago, "No Irish Need Apply"). Barone's article correctly points out that the Republicans will never agree to any form of legalization or "amnesty". That was the way the Republican base felt in 2007 as well, and that was the real reason that CIR died. How typical of the right wing distortion machine to kill CIR and then try to blame Obama and other Democrats who were aactually in favor of it.
But was the 2007 CIR really a good bill? Does anyone on either side remember what was actually in it? In fact, it was an awful bill for immigrants, after all the Republican amandments that has been adopted. It would have drastically cut family immigration and abolished employment-based green cards as we know them, to be replaced by a super-elitist point system that would have made immigration difficult for anyone who was not a native English speaker with an advanced degree. True enough, legalization was still in the final version of the bill - for anyone who would have been able to make it through a moat filled with alligators - I am exaggerating only slightly.
This final bill was so terrible for immigrants that I remember calling the offices of all three Senators mentioned above to ask them to vote against the bill. These calls obviously had no effect, because all three Sanators voted for the final version. But if the bill had passed, it would have been one of the saddest days for immigrants in our history. Yet, an immigration proposal along those lines is exactly what Michael Barone is suggesting in his article. For the right wing, immigration "reform" means letting in a few highly educated people, most likely mainly from Western Europe, and slamming the door against Latinos and other minority immigrants. That is not the kind of reform that America needs.
But given Obama's sorry record of compromise and cave in on other issues (take the budget and extenting tax breaks for the rich, for example) and his even worse record on immigration so far, there is a real danger that he might agree to "bipartisan reform" that would be exactly what the Fox News people and other right wing anti-Latino and anti-Asian bigots are hoping for. No legislative reform at all would be better than this. Reform should begin at home, in Obama's own administration. More specifically, it should begin at the airport in Washington, with a plane taking off to Arizona carrying Janet Napolitano as a passenger on a one way ticket.
We should not let ourselves be misled by the false siren song of "reform" into forgetting what it really means in today's anti-immigrant environment - an excuse for Obama to continue his draconian administrative policy of deportation and visa denials by pretending that he has no power to change anything without Republican support, while the Republicans pursue their even more one-sided "enforcement-only" agenda. If immigration advocates start taking someone like Michael Barone seriously, we are all in for almost as much trouble, if not even more trouble, than we would be if we take Barack Obama seriously. The only difference between them on immigration is the one between a Democratic hypocrite and a Republican one.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.