Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D, WV) has delayed recent legislation that would grant amnesty to thousands of illegal immigrants, despite pleas from President Bush to pass the bill before he visits Mexico.
“It is lunacy — sheer lunacy — that the president would request, and the House would pass, such an amnesty at this time,” said Byrd, who pointed to Sept. 11 as proof that America needs to scrutinize illegal immigrants more closely and tighten border security. “That point seems obvious to the American people, if not to the administration,” he added.
Of course, a clear distinction ought to be made here between immigrants from countries that sponsor terrorism and those — like Mexico — that are not outwardly hostile to the United States.
Which brings us to the real cause of Byrd’s objection: For the past two decades, minorities in this country have overwhelmingly voted Democrat. Despite obvious overtures, President Bush failed to coral double-digit Hispanic support during the 2000 election. Plainly, Sen. Byrd wishes not to provide legislation that would allow the Republican Party to make inroads with the Hispanic voting populace.
He has acted accordingly.
This is a good thing. By granting amnesty to large groups of illegal immigrants, who effectively invaded our borders, we send an unmistakable message that assimilating into American society is not important. It says we will twist our laws and sell our culture, all for some votes.
So why would the Republicans peddle legislation that rewards lawbreakers, while ignoring those legal immigrants who patiently wade through the naturalization process? Cheap votes. Plainly, the amnesty is an attempt to curry favor with the largest growing segment of our voting populace — Hispanics. (The president gives the game away by failing to seriously consider amnesty for other illegal aliens.) And corporate America is backing the measure because it provides them with cheap labor.
Of course, Republicans supporting the measure will tell you that the legislation is bound up in a respect for family values. You see, the legislation specifically addresses those immigrants who have entered America legally, but overstayed their visas. Enforcement of the law would mean that mothers and fathers would be shipped back to Mexico while their residency status is assessed. By granting these “illegals” amnesty, the Republicans prevent families from being broken apart.
“I want to show our friends, the Mexicans, that we are compassionate about people who live here on a legal basis, that we don’t disrupt the families for people who are here legally,” said Bush last week. “If someone is living here legally they won’t have to leave the country in order to stay with their families. We believe in family values.”
Just one thing: Family values are bound up in moral, ethical and legal obligations. They speak to the responsibility we all have to endow our children with a meaningful perspective, the sort of perspective that ultimately allows us to huddle together as a society. Family values are the bedrock of our union.
Get it? Family values are not about short-circuiting the legal system just so that you may coral some cheap votes.
Clearly, the Republicans are using family values as warm, endearing code for their attempts to co-opt a traditional bastion of the Democrats support. Simply, Bush knows that the GOP cannot remain a long-term, stable governing majority unless it actively woos and eventually wins a larger percentage of the Hispanic vote.
For this reason, the president’s eyes grow wide at the prospect of granting amnesty to illegal Mexican immigrants. However, he does so at the risk of sending dangerous signals about assimilation; signals that threaten to unravel our culture not with a bang, but with the slow erosion of traditional American values.
© 2002 ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS
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