As the White House readies itself for yet another massive publicity event on this issue, I find my self reminded of a parallel play made by Cali Reeps in the Pete Wilson administration: Proposition 187.
Here is the text of the 14th Amendment, Section 1:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.Seems very clear, doesn't it? If you're born in the United States, you are a citizen of the United States -- entitled to the same benefits and protections available to any other citizen. Period.
That being the case, it seems not only likely but obvious that, were a state to enact a law denying government services to a specific category of children born in the United States, because of the identity of their parents, that the law would be struck down as unconstitutional. What other outcome could anyone have expected?
Even so, the Reep Governor of California chose not only to throw his support behind a measure designed to do just that, but to appeal the inevitable court decision striking down the blatantly unconstitutional law. This all begs the question: Why on earth would the Reeps sink so much time and effort into a campaign which was doomed from the start?
The answer: political posturing.
Because even today, I hear people refer to the fate of Prop 187 as evidence that "they" are taking over this country, and liberals and judges are helping it happen. "The people spoke when they voted for 187," the narrative goes, "and their voice was ignored." The runup to the election was marked by public protests and school walkouts, and the racial tension was palpable. Those who opposed the measure were accused of favoring illegal immigration, et cetera, et cetera. In the long term, the substance of Prop 187 went down in flames (and the conventional wisdom is that Pete Wilson went down with it, though his staff is now the Governator's staff), but it served its purpose at the moment, which was to create a divisive hot-button issue and drive the far right to the polls.
Sounds familiar? Indeed.
Fast forward to the present (emphasis mine):
Mexican President Vicente Fox called to express concern over the prospect of militarization of the border and Bush reassured him that it would only be a temporary measure to bolster overwhelmed Border Patrol agents, the White House said.Hmmm . . .
Faced with sagging approval numbers in an election year, the leadership of the Reep party suddenly decides to take extreme action on a hot-button issue -- action which is certain to divide the country and inflame the passions of both the extreme right wing and the hispanic community they love to hate.
So, the bait is set. Immigration is the issue of 2006, and there can be no doubt that the Reeps will do their very best to goad the Dems into opposing the administration's extremism so that they can once again be painted as favoring illegal immigration.
My advice to the Dems? Refuse to let the subject be changed. The administration is posturing, pandering to their base in an election year, with a measure that they already acknowledged is a stop-gap at best. The best thing to do is say so, and refuse to be led around by the nose.