By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The hope, then, is that Republicans will take a leaf from Mr. Rochester in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and move their troublesome relatives to the attic. But things could go the other way.
A week after exit polls paid for by moderate immigration reform advocacy groups showed strong Latino support for Democrats in the mid-term election, other respected national polls showed that Latinos had trended more Republican this year than in the 2008 Congressional elections, by as much as five percent. So how is that trend supposed to frighten rambunctious Republicans?
In fact there is enough uncertainty about Latino voters and 2012 to prompt this line of questioning: What if the 2012 election does not fall to the side of moderate reformers? What if it goes the way of Lamar Smith and Steve King? What will the U.S. House look like then?
That's easy. Like Texas.
Whatever the mid-term elections did to Washington, multiply by 10 and you'll have a fair guess what Texas will look like when its new legislative members are seated next year in Austin. In the last session, Republicans had a four-vote lead in the 150-member Texas House. Next year their lead will be more than 50 votes, a "super majority" under House rules, meaning Republicans in the Texas House will barely have to say hello to the remaining Democrats, let alone consult them.
On immigration issues some of the Republicans in the Texas House will make Smith and King look like bow-tie liberals. For example, State Representative Leo Berman, a six-term Republican from Tyler, will be Debbie Riddle's chief rival for immigrant crackdown leader. In fact he was almost certainly the one she hoped to beat by camping out on the House floor.
Berman and Riddle will competitively push Arizona-like laws to require immigration enforcement by local police, bills to deny citizenship to children of undocumented aliens, bills barring undocumented aliens access to civil courts, cutting off all state funding to cities that fail to expel undocumented aliens, forbidding state agencies from providing services to children of undocumented aliens, levying an eight percent tax on all money sent to Mexico, Central America or South America and for the first time making English the official language of Texas.
Berman's signature work in the area of citizenship will be his bill requiring candidates for president or vice president of the United States to present their own birth certificates to the Texas Secretary of State before their names can be placed on the ballot in Texas, thus assuring that a foreign-born person will not be able to sneak into either of those two high offices.
King in the U.S. House has already signaled he will introduce immigration bills in Washington parallel to several that Berman and Riddle will bring with them to Austin next January.
If you only knew Berman from his birther bill, you might be surprised by him in person. He does not come across as a Gomer-talking demagogue, at least not at first. A retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, son of Latvian immigrants who entered the country through Ellis Island, Berman is genial and speaks with faint echoes of a Northeastern accent. But when he opens his mouth, he does pour out the heart and soul of the region that elects him to the Texas Legislature every two years.
Berman depicts a Texas awash in illegal aliens, the entire state on the verge of sinking beneath their weight. "They're using every emergency room in the state," he says earnestly. "If a Texan actually gets sick or gets injured and needs emergency room care, he's usually sitting in there with a roomful of illegal aliens, waiting and waiting for hours.
"But the hospitals don't charge illegal aliens anything. They get free healthcare. U.S. citizens can't enjoy that benefit."
He describes the burgeoning immigrant population in Texas as if it were anthrax. "You've got one illegal alien that comes in. They've got enough money to buy a rent house. And you get a half-dozen families living in a house. And these people are sending their kids to our schools. They're dumbing down our schools."
He sees the problem in Texas as emblematic of a national crisis. Clearly Texas is the place to look for leadership, he believes, unlike other more liberal climes that have already humiliated themselves.
"I think Los Angeles is probably governed by illegal aliens right now," he says. "I've heard there are more illegal aliens in Los Angeles than there are Californians."
Berman and Riddle's cause fits on a bumper sticker: Get 'Em Out. The complex case for the moderate side is made of many arguments, but taken one at a time, each of those arguments can also be direct, persuasive, even simple.
Regelbrugge, whose national group, ACIR, represents labor-intensive agriculture, starts with a simple fact: Most ag workers in this country are foreign citizens, here illegally, working with fake IDs.
But the next thing he says is that his industry is totally dependent on them to harvest certain kinds of crops. Native-born American workers won't do the work, he insists, almost at any wage, certainly not at a wage that would allow American growers to compete with imported products.