Why is President Obama suing to invalidate the Arizona law on illegal immigration? Why is he incurring the enmity of even his own Democratic congressmen from the Phoenix and Tucson areas by trying to kill a law that two-thirds of Arizona and a similar proportion of America as a whole supports?
The answer: It is a desperate, last-ditch attempt to rebuild his sagging popularity with America's Hispanic voters.
Furious at Obama for failing to keep his election-year promise to promote comprehensive immigration reform when he had a super-majority at his disposal, they are deserting the president and his party in droves. Unemployment, a sagging economy and their sharp disagreement with Obama over social issues don't help the president's cause any.
So Obama has seized on the Arizona immigration law as a symbolic target, hoping to accomplish in a lawsuit the political task of rebuilding his base.
Remember that in 2008, Obama won precisely the same share of the white vote that Sen. John Kerry won in 2004. There was a shift among whites, as the Obama won more young whites and lost more older ones, but the white vote ratios as a whole remained constant. His entire margin of victory was based on two factors:a) The African-American vote rose from 11 percent of the total in 2004 to 14% in 2008 and virtually all voted for Obama; and
b) Latinos, who had backed Kerry by only 10 points, supported Obama by 50 points.
For Obama to have a shot at keeping Democrats in control of Congress, he must replicate the enthusiasm of 2008 among minorities. But his Hispanic flank is definitely weakened. Hence the lawsuit to shore it up.
The answer on immigration reform is to adopt a three-part program to dry up the jobs that attract illegal migrants in the first place. When there are no jobs, they will not come -- and those who are here will go back home without deportations or roundups.
We need to:
-- Strengthen penalties and enforcement of laws barring people and companies from hiring illegal immigrants. Those who do so should face prison time.
-- We should implement a broad guest-worker program to bring upscale and manual workers into the U.S. to fill our labor-force needs. They must get at least the minimum wage and have health benefits. But, when the job is over, they must go home.
Democrats won't embrace this program because the unions won't let them and because they want illegals to stay here and become Democratic voters. Republican agri-businesses won't go for it because they want to exploit illegal workers with low pay and bad work conditions.
But this is the solution. Trying to seal the border is good rhetoric but is a hopeless task. Drying up the jobs that bring illegal immigrants here is something we can and must do.