Friday, April 15, 2005

Immigration Man

¡La Migra!

Duck your head in and yell that into any Los Angeles restaurant kitchen, and you're likely to see half the staff bug out the back door.

It's slang for the immigration man, or in other words, "RAID!"

I've lived in LA for over 20 years and have been a dove on illegal immigration. Mexicans and Central Americans are legendary for never asking for handouts, only work. On freeway exit ramps, they won't be begging, they'll be selling oranges and peanuts. (Always oranges and peanuts, dunno why.)

Now our county health system has provided care of the last resort to everyone regardless of ability to pay, and proof of citizenship is not required or even asked for. (This system is never mentioned in the wail about 40 million uninsured Americans. It is indeed our medical safety net.)

But it does seem that illegal immigrants have achieved a critical mass and swamped the system. The same as above applies to our schools.

But that was true too in 1994, when California governor Pete Wilson, a Republican, got himself re-elected by riding his support for Proposition 187, which banned illegals from receiving public services. (187 was later thrown out by the courts, on some ground or another.)

But the damage was done. To save his own sorry ass, Wilson had once again attached racism to the GOP. The Latino vote, a bloc which would soon pass Blacks in size, looked to go heavily Democrat forever.

However, a Texas governor named Bush learned from Wilson's disaster, and refused to be painted in an anti-Hispanic light. He diffused the racism charges and he got around 35%-45% of the Hispanic vote in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, a surprising total that may have swung those elections his way. In doing so, he may have saved his party.

For the Republican Party or the administration to take the lead on immigration now would be suicide as long as the Democratic Party sits on the sidelines.

And everybody knows it.

If illegal immigration is indeed a threat to Joe Six-Pack, and it still fancies itself the party of the working man, the Democratic Party should take the politics out of it and this whole issue could be legislated in a few months.

The Democrats have less to lose than the Republicans by taking a stand on the immigration mess. If they don't think there's a problem, then they should say so. But as with Social Security and probably another dozen issues, America is held hostage by a party that refuses to lead or follow.

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