By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
When Sharry talks about radicals in charge of the House, he means those two. Of Smith he says, "What he calls attrition through enforcement is a strategy, to be blunt, approaching an American version of ethnic cleansing.
"We're going to expel millions of these Latino immigrants who have been here a long time. They may have violated immigration law to get in, but they have been otherwise law-abiding, hard-working family people, two thirds of whom have been here for more than a decade, 70 percent of whom are in family units. We're going to make life so miserable for these people that they are expelled from this nation of immigrants."
Smith gave a written statement in response to questions about his plans: "The Judiciary Committee should enact policies that will better secure our border and discourage illegal immigration, human smuggling and drug trafficking," he said.
He concluded with an appeal to anxiety and action: "American citizens should not have to fear for their lives on U.S. soil! If the federal government enforced immigration laws, we could better secure the border and better protect U.S. residents."
King wants to start the expulsions by hitting the softest targets—the children of immigrants. His public pronouncements on immigration have centered on a proposal to amend the Constitution to take away the guarantee of citizenship provided in the 14th amendment for children born in the United States to foreign parents. King also wants to strip these kids of any social safety net.
In a statement on his House website, King says: "Many of these illegal aliens are giving birth to children in the United States so that they can have uninhibited access to taxpayer funded benefits and to citizenship for as many family members as possible."
This view of illegal aliens—Latino moochers rushing here to procreate, get on the dole and teach their kids to be terrorists—conflicts with the data. For one thing, Latino immigrants stopped rushing here when the American economy hit the skids in 2008.
More to the point, Latino immigrants—legal or undocumented—are more likely to get jobs and work for a living than native-born Americans. A 2006 U.S. Census study found that over 68 percent of working-age people of Mexican origin are working as opposed to 65.7 percent of all Americans. People of Central American origin make most Americans look like they're on permanent siesta: More than 76 percent of working-age Central Americans in this country earn a living by working, the study found.
The best evidence in favor of the Latino immigrants is in the outcomes achieved by the wave of them accorded amnesty under Ronald Reagan. A July 13 VVM story provided a gallery of examples of immigrants granted amnesty under the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 who have gone on to become esteemed and productive members of their communities at all levels of the socioeconomic ladder. It's a story reflected all over America, wherever those families took root after gaining citizenship.
Perhaps that's why the ardor for expulsion is not shared by a majority of Americans, almost 80 percent of whom want to see something done to normalize the status of undocumented aliens in the country, according to a New York Times poll last May.
A poll in early November paid for by America's Voice came up with similar numbers, including almost 80 percent support for steps that would keep undocumented aliens here by culling out the criminals, making the rest legal and putting them on the tax rolls—a thing that seems feasible even under laws now in effect. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently announced her agency had removed 392,000 undocumented aliens from the country in fiscal 2010, including a record 195,000 convicted criminals.
The best hope of moderate reformers is that the expulsion issue can be locked up in a Congressional stalemate until something happens to make it and its proponents go away, presumably in the election of 2012. That's a lot to hope for.
These reformers base their Hail-Mary hope on a prediction that Republicans, fearful of a backlash in 2012, will muzzle the extremists in their party. Immediately after the mid-term election, a number of moderate reform and Latino groups brought out exit-poll data to show that anti-immigrant racism of some Republican campaigns had forged a strong Latino backlash against Republicans. Now Latino leaders are predicting trouble for Republican candidates in 2012, if the GOP stays in step with Smith and King on immigration.
Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasurer of SEIU and a national figure in the moderate reform movement, is almost exuberant: "The good thing from my point of view," he says, "is that the Steve Kings and the Lamar Smiths, the Tom Tancredos, the Governor Brewers are the very best organizers I could ever hope for.
"They have done what Cesar Chavez and a generation of Latinos could not do. They have, in fact, united the Latino community in this country like nobody ever could."
Even some worried conservative Republicans share this view. Linda Chavez, author, Reagan White House staffer and Fox TV analyst, says the racist TV ads are pushing away a constituency that would otherwise be valuable to Republicans in 2012—one that is growing fast in both raw numbers and political engagement. It's a trend that could damage her party in 2012. Chavez says Republicans "are shooting themselves in the foot, because a demographic shift is taking place."