For the past 25 years, the Republican party has been spectacular at rewriting the national agenda so that it could maintain its unnatural coalition between the fiscal conservatives and the bible-thumpers. (Except for a slight blip in 1992) At first it was easy. Ronald Reagan had Communists to rail against. And if there were ever an issue to unite the bankers and the good old boys together, it was those godless Commies who hated capitalism. But as the years went by, it was harder to keep reality out of the party line. It fractured in 1992 with the giant sucking sound of NAFTA and didn't recover until Bill Clinton got a BJ in the Oval Office.
Now the Republican leadership [sic] is struggling mightily to keep the nation focused on terrorism and gay marriage. Unfortunately for them, issues like global warming and corruption and the war in Iraq and the aftermath of Hurrican Katrina and, oh yes, Immigration keep popping up to the fore.
Nobody seems to know what to make of the immigration issue yet, because it's a complex issue that doesn't like to be painted in black and white. Dems aren't sure how to handle it and are privately thankful the issue is arising during a Republican presidency so they don't have to. Republicans, on the other hand, are going to pay a very large price because immigration will drive a wedge between the capitalists and the theocratists.
Of course, observers are starting to realize that the issue isn't really immigration, but bigotry. The most vicious illegal immigration opponents fall into two camps - those who have recently emigrated legally and resent the people who did not have to jump through the INS hoops - and those who have absolutely no clue how the immigration procedures work. (This is not to say that everyone else is educated on the subject)
Look, I have to admit I speak only one language - English. I specifically did not take Spanish in my South Florida high school as an ineffectual passive-aggressive protest against the Cubanization of Miami. I'm not a huge fan of the areas of town where homes hold 12-15 Mexican immigrants. On the other hand, I'm not hypocritical enough to forget that my great-grandparents lived 12-15 to an apartment in New York 100 years ago when they emigrated to this country. And I know they didn't speak English when they arrived, although they eventually learned it. Of course, they had their Yiddish newspapers and shop signs in their neighborhoods too. And since many of them traveled in steerage class, chances are they didn't apply for legal residency until they landed at Ellis Island. So I have some empathy for the Mexicans (and yes, the Cubans) coming to America looking for a better life.
The Truth is, I'm ambivalent about illegal immigration. Its effects on wage rates, on prices, on schools, on social services, and on property values are complex. However, I'm not ambivalent about the motives of the anti-immigration movement these days. It's nothing but raw, naked racism. You can hear it in the voices of the people who call the radio stations. You can read it in the letters they write to the newspapers. You can sense it from the shock and outrage over a Spanish version of "The Star Spangled Banner", despite the fact that the anthem has previously been translated into German, Latin, Yiddish, French, and of course Spanish. The US State department actually offers multiple Spanish language versions of the national anthem. (President Bush's remark that "I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English. only proves that he has no mastery of the English language himself.)
The immigration issue deserves a lot more attention than one posting can give it. But it is becoming clear that "Hispanic" is the new "Black" in this country. The Republican Congress is trying to hitch its horse to a new "Southern Strategy" in a desperate new attempt to get racists to elect fiscal conservatives. If the strife in Congress is an indicator, the Dems might have a few good years ahead. On the other hand, if they manage to smooth over their differences, it could be Springtime for Conservatives.