Back in the good old days, Social Security held the title of "the third rail of politics." Anyone who dared bring it up was certain to start an argument they weren't going to win.
Now, it's immigration. Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer has signed into law a bill which, according to Reuters
Requires police to determine whether people are in the country legally and to question them if there is suspicion they're not. It also forces immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times.
The law, SB1070, makes it a misdemeanor to lack proper immigration paperwork and forbids local cities and counties from passing laws which would, in effect, form sanctuary cities by forbidding their local police to enforce the law.
According to the Latin American Herald Tribune the Mexican government issued a statement over the weekend saying it would "all available means in supporting its citizens."
"The Presidency of the Republic reiterates its absolute commitment to the protection of the human rights and dignity of all Mexicans abroad, independent of their immigration situation," the statement said.
At first blush, most Americans would, and should, cringe at a law which brings to mind images of a 1930's German soldier demanding "papers" of civilians going about their normal business.
On the other hand, Arizona is ground zero for illegal immigration with (depending upon which report you read) between 450,000 and 650,000 illegal immigrants in that state. The 2010 census will not help define that number any more closely because illegal aliens are not likely to have filled out and sent back their census form.
Hispanics have become an important voting bloc for Democrats and, with Democrats' mid-term electoral fortunes continuing to fade, using the Arizona law as a launching pad for a major registration and turn-out effort in November makes good political sense.
To that end, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) and President Obama have apparently decided to shove aside important climate change/energy legislation which was to have been introduced today by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in favor of turning the nation's attention to what they consider to be a more politically favorable immigration debate.
Senator Reid is in a difficult re-election bid in Nevada and there is a significant effort to raise the level of Hispanic participation on his behalf. A Washington, DC based group, The Hispanic Project is leading that effort. According to The Hispanic Project's announcement, Nevada
"was one of three competitive states, (along with New Mexico and Colorado), with the largest percentage increase of Hispanic voters from 2004 to 2008. In 2004 Hispanic voters were 10 percent of all Nevada voters. By 2008 they comprised 15 percent of the vote."
The group intends to target the "estimated 70,000 unregistered [but] eligible Hispanic voters" to get them out to vote in November.
Indeed, the reporter who covers climate and energy issues for the Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin wrote in her piece about the collapse of the climate bill this morning that Reid "sees immigration reform as more essential than energy to his reelection bid."
One of the issues about immigration which should be discussed is its effect on our unemployment situation. When unemployment was below 4 percent - effectively full employment - we needed people to do the work. But, with unemployment at 9.7 percent, shouldn't we be looking for ways to get people who are here legally into the jobs now held by people who are not supposed to be here at all?
So, by putting off - perhaps until the next Congress - meaningful legislation which might have led to reducing our dependence on foreign oil, in favor of legislation which may maintain our dependence on foreign workers Harry Reid and Barack Obama have chosen convenient politics over good policy.
That is a border they should not have crossed.