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Memo to the Candidates: Immigration, Seriously?

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Note: Cross-posted at www.immigration08.com.

Seriously, it's about time the candidates started talking about immigration again. But now, can we talk about it seriously?

A New York Times editorial published Friday took both Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama to task for the way in which they've approached the issue of comprehensive immigration reform in Spanish-language campaign ads this month.

John McCain started the back-and-forth bickering. In Spanish, he accused Obama of killing last year's attempt at immigration reform by voting for a series of "poison pill" amendments, a claim the New York Times called "a jaw-dropping distortion. The bill wasn't killed by any amendments. It was killed by a firestorm of talk-radio rage and a Republican-led filibuster. The very bill that Mr. McCain now mourns is the one he sidled away from as his own party weakened and killed it. It's the one he says he would now vote against."

It's really too bad that John McCain has backed away from his earlier leadership on immigration reform. Unfortunately, he felt that he had to pander to the anti-immigration elements of his own party to become their nominee. But to turn around and try to blame Obama and the Democrats for the failure of reform--after his own party blocked the bill in 2006 AND 2007--is breathtakingly false.

Unfortunately Obama's response ad, also in Spanish, raises some credibility concerns of its own. The Obama ad tries to link John McCain to right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh, a foe of immigration reform, and uses some salacious quotes from Limbaugh to stir the pot. Though over-the-top, the quotes were taken out of context, and many pundits and truth-squaders are chattering about the ad.

But if the Obama campaign had done just a little more research, they would have found a "treasure trove" of quotes from anti-immigrant conservatives, including Limbaugh, that show why the GOP has tacked hard right on the issue and abandoned Latino and immigrant families in the bargain. Clearly they are scared of the angry and vocal anti-immigrant fringe that is making a move on the GOP, and so far succeeding. Take a look at these quotes:

"So invasive species like mollusks and spermatozoa are not good, and we've got a federal judge say, 'You can't bring it in here,' but invasive species in the form of illegal immigration is fine and dandy bring 'em on, as many as possible, legalize them wherever we can, wherever they go, no matter what they clog up. So we're going to break the bank; we're going to bend over backwards. The federal judiciary is going to do everything it can to stop spermatozoa and mollusks from coming in, but other invasive species? We're supposed to bend over and grab the ankles and say, 'Deal with it.' ... We're not going to be able to bring 'em in now, but invasive species that, say, on their own power and of their own desire and volition cross the border and come here, we can't say diddly-squat about it." - Rush Limbaugh, "The Rush Limbaugh Show," April 1, 2005

""On the other side, you have people who hate America, and they hate it because it's run primarily by white, Christian men. Let me repeat that. America is run primarily by white, Christian men, and there is a segment of our population who hates that, despises that power structure. So they, under the guise of being compassionate, want to flood the country with foreign nationals, unlimited, unlimited, to change the complexion pardon the pun of America. Now, that's hatred, too." Bill O'Reilly, "Bill O'Reilly" radio show, May 29, 2007, speaking about people who wanted to ease restrictions in a Senate immigration bill

""The American majority is not reproducing itself. Its birthrate has been below replacement level for decades. Forty-five million of its young have been destroyed in the womb since Roe v. Wade, as Asian, African, and Latin American children come to inherit the estate the lost generation of American children never got to see. . . . our minority population rose 2.4 million to exceed 100 million. Hispanics, 1 percent of the U.S. population in 1950, are now 14.4 percent. Since 2000, their numbers have soared 25 percent to 45 million. The U.S. Asian population grew by 24 percent since 2000, as the number of white kids of school age fell 4 percent. Half the children five and younger today are minority children....The Anglo population of California is down to 43 percent and falling fast. White folks are now a minority in Texas and New Mexico. In Arizona, Hispanics account for more than half the population under twenty. The America Southwest is returning to Mexico." Pat Buchannan, "Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart"

""The Statue of Liberty is crying, she's been raped and disheveled raped and disheveled by illegal aliens, and our politicians do nothing except give themselves big fat checks and big fat jobs." - Michael Savage, "The Savage Nation," Aug. 4, 2008

But setting aside the he said/he said, here's the real deal. Two aggressive immigration ads later, we're no closer to talking about real solutions to the broken immigration system. As stated in today's New York Times editorial, "Meanwhile, the Bush administration keeps raiding factories and farms, terrorizing immigrant families while exposing horrific accounts of workplace abuses. Children toil in slaughterhouses; detainees languish in federal lockups, dying without decent medical care. Day laborers are harassed and robbed of wages. An ineffective border fence is behind schedule and millions over budget. Local enforcers drag citizens and legal residents into their nets, to the cheers of the Minutemen."

We at America's Voice would like to offer this challenge to both candidates: Be honest with us. Use the time remaining in your campaigns and the upcoming Presidential debates to tell us your plan for immigration reform. How will you design it, how will you pass it into law, and how will you implement it, so that we can once again be both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws?

We'll be watching.

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