Friday, June 29, 2007

Saxby caves, joins the nativists.

What's that noise? That flippity-flopping noise? Why, it's the sound of our Senator Saxby, recently reeled in by Georgia's nativists, desperately thrashing against the bottom of their boat. I hear the gutless fish are the easiest to clean.

A few days ago, Saxby joined the filibuster of the immigration compromise that he helped write, effectively killing it. According to Political Insider, he joined the filibuster because of the sunset provision of the temporary worker program: “The temporary worker program is the guts of the whole issue relative to providing workers to business." I suppose that five years under the caste system is not enough for his corporate cronies? From Trapper John's take on the immigration compromise:

The temporary worker program has nothing to do with immigration policy. To the contrary -- it is a guaranteed cheap labor program grafted on to an immigration bill. When most people think of "immigration" to the US, they think of people coming to America to build a new life for themselves and their families, just as their ancestors did. But the temporary worker program has nothing to do with building American families and American dreams. Under the program, 400,000-600,000 guest workers would enter the country every year on two-year visas. Although the visas can be renewed twice, recipients would be denied any path to permanent residency or citizenship. In fact, the guest workers would be precluded from even applying for permanent residency while here on temporary visas.

In short, the "temporary workers" will be just that -- "temporary," and "workers." Not "immigrants." And they can never be "Americans." Instead, we will have created a permanent caste of non-citizens with no hope of ever becoming citizens. A class of over half-a-million workers without a voice in the political process, here at the sole sufferance of their employers.

But I think we know Saxby's justification is a pretext. Saxby's base has been whipped into a nativist frenzy of late, and he fears that if he doesn't kowtow to them, they'll complicate his re-election campaign. You know what they say: "You got to dance with them what brung you." And while Saxby may get his money from the corporate elite, it's the far right that gives him his votes.

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Today, Political Insider points to a Washington Post article on opponents of the immigration compromise in Gainsville, Georgia. Among the opponents:

A stay-at-home mother of two, Usrey has dreaded shopping at this particular [Wal-Mart] ever since a Friday afternoon about five years ago, when she said she suddenly noticed she was the only non-Latino customer.

"That was the first time I looked around and said, 'Man, I didn't realize how many Mexicans there were here,' " Usrey, 39, recalled. "And they don't seem to feel any discomfort when they're, like, six inches from your face and talking to each other in their language, either. I just felt very encroached upon. . . . It was like an instant feeling of 'I'm in the minority, and if we don't get control over this, pretty soon all of America will be outnumbered.' "

I've felt like an outsider, everyone has, so I can sympathize with that feeling. You deal with it; you integrate yourself into the changing society, or you learn to love being an outsider. You don't try to make your neighbors' lives miserable in a futile effort to feel like an insider again.

The article also highlights a view that I wish our politicos would reinforce:

The restaurant's owner, Tim Bunch, 50, walked by and gave a friendly wave. Like several of his customers, Bunch is less concerned by the arrival of illegal immigrants to Gainesville than by the local reaction to them.

"Most of [the Mexicans] don't want to come here. They just need to eat," he said later. "I think we're all God's children, created in his image. . . . And I would hope hearts don't grow to a point where they are so hardened about another human being."

Politicians can't ignore the effect of immigration on places like Gainsville, but they aren't obliged to pander to the worst in the people. They can appeal to the best. It may not be as cheap as it is to tap their hatred, but it might win the respect - and the vote - of someone like Tim Bunch, and it will undoubtedly change the character of the immigration debate for the better.

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And finally, from Tapped, a note on the effect of immigration on the culture of immigrants' countries of origin. According to a study by the World Bank:

"[M]igrants can affect their home countries' views ... because they typically adopt ideas and behaviors prevailing in the destination countries and transmit them to their countries of origin." Championing this increased gender equality and educational attainment, the correlation between lower birthrates and lower poverty rates, and the influence of developed country's values on those of the developing country, the report offers a revelatory glimpse at the profound effects that immigration reform, done right, could promote.

An interesting idea; it's too bad that Washington prefers the "big walls and bigger explosions" approach to promoting American ideas.