Thursday, June 01, 2006

Bush's pushes

Today President Bush spoke to the national Chamber of Commerce in Washington about immigration reform. The crowd was eerily quiet throughout, perhaps because they weren't sure what to think. You can listen for yourself by clicking here for the CSPAN video of Bush's speech or click here to read the Text of Bush's speech.

Bush anticipates that the up-coming Congressional Conference Committee on immigration will "require compromise on both sides" and that Congress should not shy away from tackling this difficult task. "We need comprehensive immigration reform that fixes the system's problems, that provides a fair and practical way forward", he charged.

Bush used the words "comprehensive immigration reform" over and over again without giving a truly comprehensive plan. He defined "comprehensive" as a plan that addresses all elements together otherwise none will be addressed at all. Point taken. Yet, how can a plan be "comprehensive" if it fails to take into account global economic pressures that create migration flows (don't mention NAFTA at the Chamber of Commerce...) or examines whether our current immigration legal system in broken and out of date?

President Bush noted that people are "desperate to put food on the table for their families" and that in the U.S. they can get $7 an hour as opposed to 50 cents in Mexico. "Guess what," he said, "they're gonna sneak across the border [no matter what]." But instead of examining why Mexican workers might get 50 cents an hour at home, he went on to talk about immigration enforcement and the need to enforce the law.

Instead Bush steered a course into familiar enforcement-heavy proposals. He noted that the "hard-working" Border Patrol had apprehended 6 million people at the border over the last 5 years and that his administration will double the Border Patrol to 12,000 border patrol officers by 2008. He pointed out that his deployment of National guard to the border will only be to complement the Border Patrol and the U.S. is "not going to militarize our border". But what else would you call his plans for sophisticated surveillance, advanced technology and expanded detention space?

Despite this, Bush admitted that even if we put up lots of walls, nothing is going to stop people willing to take risks to do anything for their families. He remarked, "I've often said that family values don't stop at the Rio Grande." He also said that these are "decent hard-working people, vital to our economy yet living in the shadows beyond the protection of the the law". He chastised fellow Republicans who suggest that we should deport them all since this is unrealistic. He urged Congress to take the sensible middle ground.

The subtext of this speech is that Bush urging Congress to get its act together in the conference committee and send him a bill for him to sign. Failing to do so will make Washington (especially Republicans) look ineffectual as the nation enters up-coming elections. Here's a cartoon that helps illustrate the situation.