Monday, March 27, 2006

Illegal Immigration: Will The Weekend March Prove Self-Defeating?

I'm a supporter of a two-prong approach to illegal immigration: Effective control of the border, once and for all, along with some kind of just program for normalizing the 11 million illegals already here. I think the notion (popular among a minority of diehards) that somehow those 11 million can simply be made to go away is not a serious idea.

The problem is, those who stand to benefit from keeping the immigrants from assimilating into American society, as well as soft-headed thinkers on the left, do not want any immigration reform at all. I think they are leading many well-intentioned and patriotic illegals to shoot themselves in the feet by provoking a backlash.

Starting with the soft-headed left: The Sunday L.A. Times rhapsodized about Saturday's huge protest march, in which an estimated 500,000 people protested tough immigration reform proposals pending in Congress. Here's an excerpt from today's entirely predictable L.A. Times editorial, following that story up:

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES hosted the most awe-inspiring political rally in recent California history Saturday as an estimated half a million people came together peacefully. The ostensible reason was to protest harsh anti-immigration legislation being considered in Washington, but the rally's broader purpose was to celebrate immigrants and reclaim the initiative in the debate from strident anti-immigrant voices.
The Times "news" story on Sunday morning was only slightly less effusive:

A crowd estimated by police at more than 500,000 boisterously marched in Los Angeles on Saturday to protest federal legislation that would crack down on undocumented immigrants, penalize those who help them and build a security wall along the U.S.' southern border.Spirited but peaceful marchers — ordinary immigrants alongside labor, religious and civil rights groups — stretched more than 20 blocks along Spring Street, Broadway and Main Street to City Hall, tooting kazoos, waving American flags and chanting, "Sí se puede!" (Yes we can!).
One wonders about the impact of such public displays, in which Mexican and American flags alike were prevalent. Years ago, when Proposition 187 was before the voters, there was a huge rally in a hall festooned with Mexican flags and full of chanting non-citizens demanding benefits intended for citizens. Polls showed that the resulting backlash was a major factor in Prop 187's passage a few days later.

Glenn Reynolds analyzes the situation exactly as I would:

[T]he obvious tendency of this weekend's marches to provoke a backlash makes me wonder why they're happening. One possibility is that the organizers are dumb, and don't think there will be a backlash. The other possibility is that the organizers aren't dumb, and figure that they'll benefit from a backlash if it occurs. Either they win (which means they win) or they lose, and get a prop. 187 type response, leaving both illegal and legal Latino immigrants polarized and looking to them for leadership (which means they win). Given the GOP's inroads into the Latino vote, this may be, in part, an effort to sabotage any Latino realignment toward the GOP.

Mickey Kaus thinks that this will wind up hurting the Democrats more than the Republicans. I'm not so sure -- but I am pretty sure that the march organizers don't think so.

UPDATE: Of course, the march organizers may not care as much about how this issue affects the Democrats vs. the Republicans as they care about how this impacts their own political positions. The creation of a visible Angry Latino bloc may hurt the Democrats, but still help those seen as the leaders of the bloc.

. . .

As Jim Bennett likes to say: Democracy, Multiculturalism, Open Immigration -- pick any two.

Bennett's comment is especially compelling. You should read Glenn's entire post.

UPDATE: The president's speech on illegal immigration is linked here. (Thanks to Mary Katherin Ham at Hugh Hewitt's site.)

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