Earlier today, President Bush urged the Senate to approve legislation that would grant most of the 11 million or so immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally to eventually attain citizenship.
Even though I wholeheartedly support this legislation, I take a skeptical view of why Bush is breaking with his conservative Republican colleagues -- some of whom would just love to round up these "illegals" and send them back to where they came from.
I know that some of you may think that Bush's move is a direct service to his corporate and small business contributors -- many of whom profit by employing illegals who will work for far less than American citizens would. Union members or no.
That debt to a core constituency is a driving reason for Bush's stance, but it isn't the major reason Bush wants to see most of these 11 million immigrants become citizens.
The real reason stems from the confluence of two undeniable trends:
The high birth rate in many, if not most, of the nations where these immigrants came from, and;
The rising tide of highly conservative, evangelical Christianity sweeping many of these nations. Just an example: Guatemala, where many of these "illegals" come from, is now believed to be 25% evangelical -- a far cry from the near universal hold that complacent Catholicism had on the populace just a few years ago.
And what happens when newly minted, third-world evangelical Christians hit our shores?
As is most certainly their right, they tend to join those types of churches where abortion and family planning are scorned, creationism and 6,000-year-old earth theories promulgate, and escapades such as the Iraq War are still seen as a fight against terrorism and evil. Think I am overgeneralizing? Just a few miles from where I sit typing this, the highly conservative Luis Palau Evangelistic Association has their world headquarters. And just last week,a Latina neighbor of a close family relative brought my relative some propaganda backing the illegal, separation-of-church-and state-defying,"Ten Commandments" stance adhered to by radical conservative Judge Roy Moore.
So where does the political calculation fit in?
I detect a realpolitik assumption on the part of Bush that once these people are granted citizenship, they will remember he who made it possible. Much the way that the freed slaves remembered Abe Lincoln and voted (those who were allowed to vote) overwhelmingly Republican for the next 80 years, then Bush will be the new Lincoln to a powerful, multiplying bloc of new citizens with increasingly evangelical tendencies.
Since these new citizens will, it is assumed, be scattered around the U.S., their socially conservative political proclivities will be especially effective in tipping close races in many states.
Or so Bush thinks.