Tuesday, June 29, 2010

They want walls, not reform

     The crazed, blazing rhetoric gets confusing.

      Barack Obama has done too little about the economy. Obama has done too much. Two opposing critiques, same set of mouths.

      As in: Obama is pro-big government and anti-business. Oh, but of course, he's in the pocket of big business. (You know, BP.)

      As in: Obama has done nothing about border security. Oh, and the gall of that guy sending National Guard troops to the border . . .

      I realize some people fault our president for being a little detached and clinical. But admit: Sometimes he appears to be the only sane one in the room.

      This seems most acute when the subject is immigration, with at least five states talking about adopting Arizona-style crackdowns.

       Obama is assailed for preparing a court challenge to the Arizona law. Aside from being the right thing to do against something that guarantees racial profiling (at issue: not the rights of non-Americans but of brown-skinned Americans), it's also something you'd expect the executive branch to do.

       If it happened during the Bush administration, the latter would have challenged it in court. Think not? Just when did you ever see the Bush administration cede executive-branch power?

       Another reason one could be certain thereof is that Bush didn't do demagoguery on immigration. For one, he appreciated the cross-border and interracial realities in his home state. For another, he knew what the labor in question labor meant to the economy, particularly in the land of cotton, cabbage and pinto beans.

      Whatever the case when comparing two presidents on on issue, here are some useful facts to share with someone who says this president has done squat about illegal immigration.

       — The Border Patrol has 20,000 agents, twice what it had in 2004.

        — Obama has requested $500 million in emergency border security funds, in part to add 1,000 border agents and operate two more aerial drones.

        — An Obama administration initiative with Mexican authorities has resulted in 2,266 drug-ring arrests over the past 22 months.

        If the threat of drug runners remains high, here's a figure that could be attributed to the work of both administrations on illegal immigration in general:

        For the third straight year, last year border arrests declined. No, it's not because border guards were twiddling their thumbs. It's because border traffic has waned, partly because of the U.S. economy. Or so reports the Wall Street Journal.

         Oh, but aren't illegal aliens pouring in at unprecedented levels? And isn't that why Arizona had to do something now, something dramatic? No. And no.

         In bad economic times, Arizona's initiative was driven by hard-right, angry-white politics. When Gov. Jan Brewer enacted the law, she essentially had two choices: (1) Sign it; (2) Sign her political death notice. Why? A Republican primary is coming up next month. Brewer, generally a centrist, was dead politically if she projected the slightest lack of zest for this raw-meat offering.

          So, back to sanity, and Obama's quest for comprehensive immigration reform. The opposition is, uh, opposed. Why? For one, said faction refuses to acknowledge the humanitarian and utilitarian aspects of a shadow population both peaceable and productive.

          Comprehensive reform would do what is right and reasonable. It would legalize as many of these people as possible. It would involve more flexibility in granting temporary work permits.

         We need it, but political demagogues need the "illegals" more, need the anger, need the fear, need to paint this president as a pansy. In a nation that owes its unique nature to many nations and many tongues, the only language that speaks to the people ablaze this summer is that of the wall.

          Former Texas newspaperman John Young, who resides in Colorado, writes for several newspapers. E-mail: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

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