GOP: Gulf of Policy
Babington breaks it down like this: Because members of the House run for re-election every two years, their concern for the Party -- and their own careers -- has a short-term focus. They think they can better mobilize the electorate with nationalist rhetoric that fires people up for election time. Pres. Bush (who can't run for re-election) and the Senate (who get elected every six years), meanwhile, may have a long-term focus in this matter. Since Latinos are the fastest growing sector of the electorate and make up the majority of immigrants, Bush, Karl Rove, and others see a more tolerant approach to immigration as a way to secure solid footing in the growing Latino population for elections down the road. Neither of these motives has anything to do with immigration itself.
At least twice in the article the question arises as to who aligns better with what "the American people" want. House GOP leaders come back to this repeatedly and use it to champion the field hearings, currently occurring in a few places across the country. Babington writes:
"A New York Times/CBS poll in May found that 61 percent of Americans think illegal immigrants who have lived and worked in the United States for at least two years should be given a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status; 35 percent agreed with the House's position that they should be deported....
"Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) says such surveys miss the point.'I think the Senate probably is reading the polls,' he said, 'but I think the House members are listening to real people in real situations. . . . People keep saying: border security, biometric cards [to prove legal status] and no amnesty.'"
I'd say Kingston misses the point. Whether or not one trusts the results of polling or claims to talk to constituents to read the lay of the land, do the gut feelings of "the American people" hold much legitimacy when we refuse them in-depth knowledge of the situation that not even our legislators know?
Consider the field "hearings". Columnist Ruben Navarrette elucidates some of the dubious elements I've worried would characterize House efforts to poll the people directly -- and delay voting on the bill the Senate has passed it. The hearings seem to serve more as soap boxes for the Congressmen and a few invited guests rather than forums through which ordinary citizens can ask questions and voice opinions, according to Navarrette.
He writes, of the hearing he attended in San Diego:
"The hearing was led by Rep. Ed Royce, R-California, who chairs the House International Relations subcommittee on international terrorism and nonproliferation. Royce told me before the hearings that he intended to focus on border security and whether the United States is at greater risk to another terrorist attack because the U.S.-Mexico border is so incredibly porous."
The House GOP and anti-immigration groups continually return to War-on-Terror rhetoric and images of an invading army pouring across our southern border. But, as Border Patrol Supervising Agent Sam Lucio told me recently, not a hint of terrorism-related activity has occurred in the Tucson sector, the busiest area for border crossing in the country. But by continually raising the specter of terrorism and tying it so securely to immigration, House GOP leaders can drum up their constituents' ire and ride the flames to re-election in November.