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Sunday, May 02, 2010

Solving The Wrong Problem

by digby

Media Matters caught David Gregory doing his job and correcting the oleaginous phony Mike Pence on immigration reform:

He's right, of course. The Republicans did block immigration reform during the Bush years. The question now is whether there is one Republican Senator who will break a filibuster. From what I gather, they have been counting on Huckleberry to convince a couple of Senators to come over with him which is like counting on Ahmadinejad bringing along Hezbollah to recognize Israel's right to exist. It would require an earth shattering change of personal character and strategy on both their parts. It's possible, but probably not the most practical plan. In fact, it's so impracticaly, you can only assume it is designed to fail.

So, the problem is still Republicans, obviously. But it's also pretty obvious that it's Democrats too. I don't know how many votes they have today for immigration reform in either house, but if this is any indication, they are losing them rather than gaining them. I doubt very seriously that they have 59 in the Senate and who knows what they have in the House. The ground has shifted because of inaction and economic distress and it's very likely that there have been a lot of Democratic defections since the last go. And I'd guess they would have a hard time getting more than a handful of Republicans, even those who desperately need Latino votes. The whole political class is running scared of the angry right, as usual.

The irony of all of this is that this issue has actually been solving itself the last couple of years:

The estimated 12 million immigrants believed to be living in the country illegally have by no means disappeared from the American work force. In the past decade, the population skyrocketed 40 percent. They now fill about 5 percent of American jobs.

However, the dramatic year-after-year increases in the population have stalled. The Pew Hispanic Center, which regularly estimates the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., concluded in its most recent report last April that the growth in their population began slowing in 2006, a full year before the recession hit.

Roughly 300,000 fewer immigrants came to the country each year between 2005 and 2008, an almost 40 percent drop annually, according to the center.

As the recession deepened in 2009 and into 2010, the numbers likely continued to decline, said Jeff Passel, a senior demographer with the center, which is preparing an update of their report.

Some immigrants say their decision to leave or stay away is much more subtle than fear of detection or the lack of jobs. They feel a broader disillusionment with a country that was once more welcoming — or at least grudgingly tolerant — during good times, but has abandoned them as the economy soured.

"We're sold this idea of the 'American Dream'," said Gustavo, a 46-year-old undocumented construction worker who says he's watched fellow illegal workers return home, discouraged by the lack of jobs. "But when we arrive, we realize it doesn't exist."

The American Dream has been patented for use only by Real Americans, I'm afraid. But immigrants shouldn't feel slighted. According to the right wing anyone who doesn't vote Republican is "foreign" too.

Arizona's problems, whatever they are, can't be chalked up to illegal immigration. The numbers are going down there just like everyplace else. What they do have is some high profile crimes due to the dumbass drug and gun policies. But even that isn't born out as a crime wave:

FBI Uniform Crime Reports and statistics provided by police agencies, in fact, show that the crime rates in Nogales, Douglas, Yuma and other Arizona border towns have remained essentially flat for the past decade, even as drug-related violence has spiraled out of control on the other side of the international line. Statewide, rates of violent crime also are down.

While smugglers have become more aggressive in their encounters with authorities, as evidenced by the shooting of a Pinal County deputy on Friday, allegedly by illegal-immigrant drug runners, they do not routinely target residents of border towns.

In 2000, there were 23 rapes, robberies and murders in Nogales, Ariz. Last year, despite nearly a decade of population growth, there were 19 such crimes. Aggravated assaults dropped by one-third. No one has been murdered in two years.

Bermudez said people unfamiliar with the border may be confused because Nogales, Sonora, has become notorious for kidnappings, shootouts and beheadings. With 500 Border Patrol agents and countless other law officers swarming the Arizona side, he said, smugglers pass through as quickly and furtively as possible.

"Everywhere you turn, there's some kind of law enforcement looking at you," Bermudez said. "Per capita, we probably have the highest amount of any city in the United States."

In Yuma, police spokesman Sgt. Clint Norred said he cannot recall any significant cartel violence in the past several years. Departmental crime records show the amount of bloodshed has remained stable despite a substantial population increase.

So where's this new anti-immigrant fervor coming from?
Since the murder of Cochise County rancher Robert Krentz by a suspected illegal immigrant in March, politicians and the national press have fanned a perception that the border is inundated with bloodshed and that it's escalating.

In a speech on the Senate floor last week, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., declared that the failure to secure that border between Arizona and Mexico "has led to violence - the worst I have ever seen."

He reiterated that Saturday after speaking at the West Valley Military Family Day event in Glendale, saying the concern that drug violence could spill across the border remains intense because Mexico's political situation is volatile.

"The violence is on the increase," McCain told The Arizona Republic. "The president of Mexico has said that it's a struggle for the existence of the government of Mexico."

Congressional members, including Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and John Shadegg, R-Ariz., sent President Barack Obama a letter asking that National Guard soldiers be sent to the border because "violence in the vicinity of the U.S. Mexico border continues to increase at an alarming rate."

And last month, as she signed Arizona's tough new law cracking down on illegal immigrants, Gov. Jan Brewer also called for National Guard troops. The law makes it a state crime to be in Arizona illegally and requires authorities to check documents of people they reasonably suspect to be illegal. Brewer said she signed it to solve what she said is an Arizona "crisis" caused by "border-related violence and crime due to illegal immigration."

Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff of Pima County, said there always has been crime associated with smuggling in southern Arizona, but today's rhetoric does not seem to jibe with reality.

"This is a media-created event," Dupnik said. "I hear politicians on TV saying the border has gotten worse. Well, the fact of the matter is that the border has never been more secure."

Well sure. This is the way right wing populism always works. The Big Money Boyz screw the little guy and the little guy, feeling impotent, takes it out on the even littler guy, usually an African American or recent immigrant. And then a bunch of politicians exploit it for their own gain. Welcome to America whenever things aren't going well.

Treating anyone who looks like they might be Latino like a criminal isn't going to assuage anyone's fears and frustrations, however. In fact, it's going to make it worse because the entire Hispanic community --- citizens and non-citizens alike --- can no longer trust the authorities and are far less likely to cooperate in investigations, which makes everyone less safe. And because of that one of the sad results of of this whole mess is that it is now going to be open season on Latinos, with the predator types assured that their victims won't feel comfortable going to the police. Everybody loses but the assholes.

*Note: click through to the McClatchy article to see a video of a truly decent man talking about illegal immigration. He's what I would call an old-school American straight arrow. There are more of them than we think. They just don't prance around in costumes screaming about birth certificates and pretending to be patriots.