Where to start on this one? Paul Babeu, the sheriff of Pinal County (which includes Tucson) was outed as gay this week. That's not exactly a scandal even in right wing Arizona. But Babeu was accused of trying to keep his sexuality secret by threatening his former boyfriend with deportation to Mexico. That's especially interesting since Babeu is right up there with Joe Arpaio on the anti-immigration crazy scale. Babeu is, of course, denying the threats, but headlines like this one won't exactly play well with his constituents. It certainly hasn't played well with the Romney folks.
The NY Times lead editorial this morning concerns immigration as a campaign issue in the 2012 primaries. Not surprisingly, the paper has some choice words for the Republicans, particularly Mitt Romney:
Mitt Romney has moved farthest to the fringe. His scheme for fixing immigration is mass expulsion: a fantasy of ridding the country of 11 million unauthorized immigrants by making their lives unbearable. The key to his harsh vision is “self-deportation,” the deceptively bland-sounding policy that he introduced at a debate. It accepts that arresting and expelling so many millions would be impossible — like deporting the State of Ohio. But it replaces that delusion with another: That people can be made miserable enough to leave on their own.
Mr. Romney lifted this scheme from a campaign adviser, Kris Kobach, the mastermind of a host of crackdowns that seek to leave unauthorized immigrants not just unable to work, but unable to drive, rent or heat a home, afraid to take children to school or the doctor. In states where “self-deportation” is official policy, the results have been deplorable. In Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County sweeps neighborhoods making mass arrests, and people are afraid to leave home. In Alabama, farm and construction workers have fled by the thousands; tornado victims are afraid to go to a shelter.
These laws hijack the federal government’s responsibility for immigration and have caused a civil-rights emergency. But Mr. Romney’s response has been to condemn the Obama Justice Department for fighting them in court.
Romney's opponents don't come off much better, but they're also not blatantly pandering as much as Romney nor have they shifted their positions to the same degree.
Primary seasons in both parties are traditionally about playing to the base and then trying to pivot back to the middle for the general election. But it's hard to see how any of the Republicans can do this now that they've said much of what they've said on immigration. Santorum probably has been smarter than Romney on this front, though barely. He's no softie on immigration, but he's also not made it a big issue in his campaign as Romney has. He's not going to get a great share of the Hispanic vote in November, but he may not get hurt as badly as Romney would.
The President gets a mixed review:
President Obama has hardly been inspiring on this issue. He has pushed deportations to record levels while failing to reform immigration more humanely. But he, at least, understands that the right immigration solution is one that doesn’t reward illegality but channels immigrant energy and aspirations to fruitful ends. It is the hard-won compromise that combines tougher border and workplace controls with a legalization path and a well-designed future flow of workers to meet our economy’s needs.
I think that's about right. The President goes from a C- to a B in my book based on his efforts over the last year. But he still has not managed to get his agencies to act in a manner consistent with the rhetoric and he has left many options on the table that need to be taken (especially when it comes to legal immigration measures aimed at skilled workers).
Greg Siskind is a partner in Siskind Susser's Memphis, Tennessee, office. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago. Mr. Siskind is a member of AILA, a board member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and a member of the ABA, where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman. He is the author of several books, including the J Visa Guidebook and The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. Mr. Siskind practices all areas of immigration law, specializing in immigration matters of the health care and technology industries. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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