Presidential scholars may look back at New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's desire to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens as one of the defining moments of the 2008 election. For it was the pushing of that issue that not only threw the Clinton campaign off its tightly controlled script, but may have finally awakened the silent majority of American voters to the issue of their time.
Americans, by and large, are a fair and forgiving people. But over the last couple of years, some on the left, and some who favor amnesty and a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, have exhausted that well of fairness and forgiveness with a steady stream of invective and ugly accusations aimed at those with whom they disagree.
If you are a U.S. citizen who believes in sovereign borders, believes in the rule of law, worries about terrorists coming across our southern and northern flanks, does not want his or her city to become a "sanctuary" city and therefore a magnet for illegal aliens, and does not want U.S. employers exploiting illegal aliens while denying jobs to Americans near or below the poverty line, you are often times categorized as a "racist and a xenophobe."
While the pandering and tortured answers of Spitzer and Clinton clearly raised the profile of illegal immigration, the name-calling has not gone unnoticed by millions of good and decent people who have done nothing more than express the view that the laws of their nation should be observed, respected and enforced.
I have written on this subject in the past, and for my efforts, I've been labeled "anti-Hispanic," "anti-Mexican," and a "bigot." Had those bloggers and emailers known I am married to a Hispanic-American, speak Spanish and have written columns outlining how our nation has been strengthened and improved because of legal Hispanic immigration, I'm quite sure some of them still would have made the same accusations. For those on the fringes of the left and the right, the politics of personal destruction trumps the truth, common sense and decency. Sadly, the subject of illegal immigration has become the place where the haters intersect.
An example of all that is wrong with this critically important issue was played out on the Nov. 8 segment of the Glenn Beck program on CNN. Beck's guests were Webb County, Texas, Sheriff Rick Flores and Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar from the 28th Congressional District of Texas.
During the course of the conversation among the three, Beck said to Cuellar, "Please tell me you're not for sending $1.4 billion (of U.S. taxpayer money) down to Mexico and give them surveillance technology so they can listen in. Are you telling me we really trust these people?"
Cuellar responded, "(Mexico's) President Calderon has taken some very brave and very bold steps to fight this — we've got to keep in mind that it's our own self-interest to help them."
To which Sheriff Flores, whose life has been threatened by the Zetas and other drug cartels, said, "Well, instead of investing money in Mexico, they (our Congress) should start investing money on the U.S. side — where we need financial assistance to be able to upgrade our departments and hire additional people to put additional boots on the ground." Later in the discussion the sheriff went on to say, "I want to ask the congressman (Cuellar), who is he representing? President Calderon or his district here in Laredo, Texas, where we haven't received any resources at the local level to be able to combat the problems on the border?"
At that point, instead of taking the high road, the congressman decided to condescendingly put the sheriff in his place. "Well, first of all, let me say this, Mr. Sheriff, what we're looking at is you have got more money than you've ever gotten in the past, and we've got to keep in mind that the border will be patrolled by the Border Patrol and by the federal agencies. We will work with the local law enforcement — but your job is to be a county sheriff, not a U.S. congressman, which is a big difference. My job is to look at the big picture. Your job is to look at the smaller picture."
Flores shot back, "I'd like to find out how much money has a congressman allocated to our county. How much money have you allocated for border security for Webb County or from the counties from Brownsville all the way to California? ... Nothing."
Beck then wrapped up that part of the debate by saying, "I have to tell you Congressman, shame on you for that response. That was the most belittling response I have ever heard. Shame on you."
Shame indeed. Border security and immigration have now been catapulted to the top of the issues list for tens of millions of American voters. False charges and character assassination are not going to compromise their principles.
We are either a nation of laws and borders or we are a dream that was. Time will quickly tell.