Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Roadshow Continues

Over the weekend and on Monday, there were some choice quotes about the immigration reform debate:

In Laredo, Texas, protester Sally Sully discussed her anti-immigrant signs ("Shut down the border now") with National Public Radio and why she didn't go inside the Congressional hearing that was held in her town: "I worked too hard on these to dump 'em in a trash can and go in there. They won't let me talk in there, you know. Y'all will listen out here."

In Los Angeles at the National Council of La Raza conference, former President Bill Clinton discussed the Republican strategy: "It is a way of creating a divided community and distracting people from the real challenges facing the country, whether it is in Iraq and Afghanistan, or homeland security, or how to build a clean energy future, or how to solve the healthcare crisis, or how to create new jobs for America."

In Chicago President Bush said, "People in this country expect us to secure the border, and we will... Look, the House has passed a bill, the Senate has passed a bill, and we're working in Washington to reconcile the differences. It's hard work. It's not an easy assignment. But I'm confident if we all keep working on it, we can get a comprehensive bill done which will be good for the country, and send the message that we're a land of different folks from different religions and different backgrounds, all united under the great -- the great American ideal."

In Miami at a Senate-sponsored hearing, General Peter Pace choked by tears when talking about his Italian immigrant father: "There is no other country on the planet that affords that kind of opportunity to those who come here." The Washington Post reported that then audience burst into applause.

All of these quotes reveal something critical about the process that has unfolded in the current debate on immigration. Congressional "leaders" have not consulted with their constituents in any meaningful to truly gage the public's views on the issue. To date, those who yell loud enough or make repeated phone calls to Congressional offices are winning out (In Miami, pro-immigrant folks could only applaud). Where is the public consultative process? For all the talk about "illegals", has Congress actually talked to immigrants and listened to their experiences? Thus far, the process has shown as remarkably un-democratic (note above that Sally Sully recognized this in Texas). Time and again Congressional representatives have demonstrated that they are less concerned about the mechanics of true immigration reform than they are about how it will play out in the media and in up-coming elections.

ACTION STEP: Call your Congressional representatives (202.224.3121) and tell them how disappointed you are in the hearings. They are far from democratic and well-rounded. Tell him we need serious discussion of immigration reform and not expensive P.R. stunts like the recent hearings.