Today, June 5, 2012, a crucial state election is taking place in Wisconsin, as voters go to the polls to decide whether to recall that state's union-busting Republican governor, Scott Walker. Walker, with the help of the Republican-controlled state legislature, has turned his state into a template for the national Republican agenda of cutting incomes, essential government services and benefits for ordinary working people in order to give tax breaks to billionaires, powerful corporations and other wealthy campaign contributors.
If he succeeds in holding on to his office today, with the help of money from the Koch brothers and other wealthy donors, many from outside Wisconsin, it will be a clear signal that big money, unleashed by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, has greater influence in determining elections than the interests of average people, who have so much to lose from a government takeover by the billionaires.
Despite the incomprehensible attempts of Democrats at the national level to pretend that this is just one more state election without much national significance - Obama has studiously avoided campaigning in Wisconsin up to now, even though Bill Clinton, a far more capable politician, recently appeared at a rally there - the Wisconsin election will inevitably be an indicator of what will happen in the national election this fall. If the Democrats lose in Wisconsin today, it will be a disaster for their party, for the president and for the nation.
Among the biggest losers, however, will be minorities, including immigrants. Not only are Hispanics an important part of the labor union movement which Walker and his party are trying to destroy by taking away collective bargaining rights, but Wisconsin, like so many other Republican-controlled states, has enacted its own voter suppression law, now on hold pending state court review. In 2011, a Republican legislator also introduced an anti-immigrant bill modeled on Arizona's S.B.1070 anti-immigrant law.
The Wisconsin bill did not make it out of committee, but this may not be the last attempt. It is not been so many years since H.R. 3447, a bill that was far worse than even Arizona's law, as it would have criminalized even the most trivial and technical immigration violations, was sponsored in the Republican controlled House of Representatives by Congressman James Sensenbrenner, another Wisconsin Republican, and passed that chamber in 2005.
On April 29, 2012, Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant rights organization, held a May Day rally in Milwaukee attended by several thousand people in support of immigrant rights, minority voting rights and workers rights. This rally, and ones like it in other American cities, are meant to draw attention to the fact that the Republican assault on immigrants is not an isolated phenomenon. It is part of a larger assault on minorities and all of the less powerful in our society, including Hispanic and African-American voters, women seeking abortion and contraception rights, same sex couples and Muslims.
And these are not just Republican assaults. Those who fail to speak out and fight against injustice are complicit in it. Barack Obama, nota bene. Giving into the Republican billionaires' and bigot's agenda, whether by the cowardly reluctance to support the Wisconsin recall effort, or the even more shameful and cowardly policy of carrying out record numbers of deportations, may cost the president and Democrats control of the White House and Congress this November.
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.