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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems Challenged on Immigration

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Cynthia Tucker shows why she won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in her Sunday op-ed, “Democrats must lead way on immigration.” Any Dems thinking about going all wobbly on the issue should first give Tucker’s eloquent essay a read. Tucker gives the GOP a richly-deserved blistering for their nativist position on immigration and adds:

…here’s some counterintuitive advice for the Democratic ranks: Don’t hedge. Lead. Do the right thing. Come out clearly and forcefully for putting illegal immigrants already in the country on a path to citizenship. This is no time to trim or triangulate. Show some spine. America is ready for reasoned leadership on this issue.
…So let the GOP be the party of fear and division. Democrats ought to stand for something else. The modern Democratic Party also made its choice in the 1960s, choosing hope over fear, tolerance over division and the beloved community over bigotry.
…This is no time for Democrats to turn their backs on that heritage. America is too generous and compassionate to expel millions of productive and otherwise law-abiding people. The nation has taken advantage of their labor for decades, and it would be inhumane (and outrageously expensive) to round them up and send them back.

Tucker suggests a reasonable alternative:

But Americans also want to be assured that this is the last time a broad legalization option is offered to illegal immigrants. Democrats ought to make it clear that they’ll enforce the borders and crack down on employers who hire illegally, a cheaper and more effective strategy for addressing the problem than building fences. After a few CEOs have done the perp walk for illegal hiring, they’ll stop offering jobs to those without proper documents. And when word gets across the border that U.S. companies have stopped hiring, those laborers will stop coming. They come for jobs, after all, not jihad.
This is a win-win platform. Not only is it wise and honorable, calling on the highest ideals of a nation of immigrants, it can also produce victories at the ballot box. Last week, Virginia Democrats made gains in state and local elections even though the state has been embroiled in fiery debate over illegal immigration. As an analysis by the Washington Post concluded, voting trends didn’t benefit “those who campaigned the loudest for tough sanctions against illegal immigrants.”
Let Republicans take the low road. It doesn’t end in a place the rest of the country wants to go.

This debate is just getting started, and Tucker’s challenge merits consideration.

3 comments on “Dems Challenged on Immigration

  1. larrydonline on

    The comments by Sagacious make more sense to me than do Cynthia Tucker’s arguments. If Democrats take comfort from the polls that show them preferred over Republicans, then they should heed the warnings from the same polls that show an overwhelming majority of all Americans, Democrats included, object to unchecked illegal immigration and the continued bestowing of benefits on non-citizens, such as a New York driver’s license. Tucker ruins much of her argument by bringing up the straw man issue of forced expulsion of the 12 to 20 million illegals said to already be in the U.S. No rational opponent of the so called comprehensive solution to illegal immigration suggests rounding up illegals and sending them back en mass. The problem is that no national Democrat has even come up with a plan that really stops future illegal immigration. Where are the proposed new laws that put employers who hire illegals in prison? Where are the proposals to reimburse states and cities for what they are having to spend to control illegal immigration because the federal government has abdicated its responsibilities. Democrats may think they can prevail on this issue by taking the so called “high road”, but for citizens who think this is an important issue, they only drive them back into the arms of the Republicans or force them to sit on their hands.

  2. sagacious on

    One thing that Turner misses in this essay is that the sixties were a time of financial prosperity for Americans. Jobs were plentiful and people beleived they could succeed with hard work.
    The new millenial does not at all have economic prosperity for vast numbers of working Americans, consequently they are unwilling to share the meager resources available to eek out a living for themselves. Many have lost their jobs and homes.
    We may be a nation of immigrants but America is in a self-preservation mode, families are unable to feed themselves, they do not have health insurance and education is deplorable in terms of inadequate funding for children of American citizens.
    For this reason the noble reasons for immigration will fall on deaf ears. Too many Americans have seen their jobs outsourced or unions busted with ‘immigrant labor’ destroying the unions as a new labor pool willing to accept menial wages that do not provide an American standard of living wage. Too many Americans have seen the influx of immigrant children into the education system crowding out needed programs for their children to meet the language and learning needs of immigrants. Too many Americans can’t pay for their own children to go to college and are outrage to have to consider making immigrant children who graduate from the public school system eligible for federal loans. The healthcare system is overwhelmed with immigrant patients without insurance and that deprives Americans who are waiting behind them in the ER for their own healthcare. Americans are angry and destitute with the harshness of the economics which will not allow a single wage earner to support a family. Individuals have to work 2 jobs just to survive and that leaves no time for a ‘life’ to enjoy family and their kids.
    At this time in our history Americans are only willing to choose hope over fear, tolerance over division and the beloved community over bigotry for their OWN needs. To suggest they give the food off their plates to immigrants will create a huge backlash.
    Immigration is a losing issue for Democrats and they should NOT attempt to stand up on this issue, as it is the WRONG time to do so.
    The principles are right but the timing is completely wrong. Americans will give when they have enough for themselves to SHARE right now is NOT that time. Americans are not willing to share or offer helping hands because they are struggling to keep for themselves afloat.
    The best idea to offer illegal immigrants is to go into the military and use that as a route to earn citizenship. At least then they will only be competing with families who also volunteer to give the ultimate sacrifice to this country.
    Great idea Tucker…wrong time.

  3. aml on

    there’s another as yet unspoken argument that ought to be made by those proposing a progressive immigration policies and it begins with the question of “why would people risk their lives and be separated from their homes and families to come to the US to work at backbreaking jobs for menial wages?” the answer is simple: they do not see a future for themselves in their native homelands. a progressive immigration policy goes hand in hand with a progressive trade policy that lifts up the living standards of our trading partners and encourages their entrepreneurial and risk taking people (what else can the journey to the US be called beside a highly risky entrepreneurial venture built on optimism) to stay home and build up their own economies and societies. but that would of course necessitate shaking off the moneyed wing of the party and its unclear that the dems in leadership positions have the “brass balls” to do that (yes, that is an implicit reference to rahm emmanuel).


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