It was in this column that I intended to unveil my comprehensive master plan on how to solve, once and for all, the problem of illegal immigration. Didn't work out. I thought and thought, and in the end, all I could come up with is, "Whew! That's a toughie!"--which is a far cry from the 1,100 words or so it takes to fill my half of this page.
So instead, I'll tell you what wasn't talked about at last week's JFK Banquet, the annual bash local Democrats throw to raise money and hobnob with like-minded neighbors. I apologize for not having a solution to the illegal immigration mess, but I tried. It's just plain too big.
I mean, there are so damn many aspects to it, aren't there? There's your deflated wage aspect, about how the resulting labor glut is keeping regular Americans' from ever seeing an improvement in their paychecks. And from the employers' perspective, where else can they find an endless source of defenseless drones, to whom such niceties as on-the-job safety, workman's comp, health insurance or grievance committees must seem like a distant and impossible dream?
Then there's the health care aspect, as to whether we let the people who pick our apples, insulate our new homes, and hose down our local warehouse store in the middle of the night just croak when they get sick, or do we help them and their families like decent people are expected to do?
And the language aspects, ay carumba! On the one hand, we have a bunch of snotty, spoiled, xenophobic white people who couldn't learn another language if you held a loaded dictionary to their heads, demanding that uneducated, underpaid, overworked migrants either speak English or get the hell out. On the other hand, we have school districts that can't afford textbooks in even one language trying to teach in classrooms that must look like kiddies' day at the United Nations.
Crime considerations, national security considerations--those are big considerations. And how do we deal with millions of desperate people without treating them like animals ... a moral consideration if there ever was one? We have gun-toting hillbillies in folding lawn chairs pretending they're border guards--yet another aspect. And race-baiting, macho blowhardiness from a headline-grabbing Canyon County commissioner--that's an aspect we Idahoans will have to live with for at least another year. (Note to Vasquez: As to that crack you made about the Mexican flag ... that wasn't a position statement, pal ... that was nothing more than a verbal drive-by.)
Then there's the aspect of how healthy it would be for all of North America--indeed, the entire Western Hemisphere--if 106 million dirt-poor, dissatisfied, increasingly angry people are kept caged up in Mexico, with nowhere to go to relieve the pressure, and how eventually they could go kerblooey like a Mount St. Popocatépetl and turn everything from the Panama Canal to Saskatoon into the seismic aftermath of a massive political upheaval.
I mean, this northern exodus across our southern border is beyond Biblical, and you expect me to figure it out? You figure it out, if you think it's so easy. So far, the only alternatives I've heard basically amount to "Let 'em all in so's we can screw the working class in this country even further into the grave" (let us call that one "The Walmart Option"), to "Kick 'em all out, then build a Great Wall of Texas with money we don't have and guard it with troops who don't exist!"
Surely, we can do better than that. Just don't ask me how.
(I have intentionally left the Bush plan out of this, seeing as how, much like the man himself, it is essentially a meaningless blast of hot air.)
Now, about that JFK banquet: It was Democrats galore, I tell you. I've been to JFK banquets in the past when everyone there could have come in the same car. But not this year. I don't know if it's because Boise is getting bigger, Republicans are getting even more repugnant, or Democrats are just getting out more. Whatever the reason, there were enough enthusiastic Ada County Ds in the joint to give Ada County Rs the nervous nellies.
Unfortunately, out of several speakers--some running for Congress, some for superintendent of education, one for governor--not a one of them mentioned what is making more and more Americans nervous with each passing day. You guessed it ... illegal immigration. There were plenty of variations on the traditionally Democratic themes--health care, education, conservation, etc.--but I heard not a word of what CNN snidester Lou Dobbs calls "our broken borders."
Not that I blame the candidates for the dodge. Illegal immigration is like one of those Hydra critters where you cut off one head and two more grow back in its place, and I don't expect any single aspiring pol to pull a Hercules and solve it by him or herself.
But not acknowledging the problem shows a blindspot in Democrat thinking that has troubled me for years. The party as a whole can be so oblivious when it comes to anticipating where the next Republican onslaught will come from, and one thing is clear to me: Illegal immigration is where Republicans are going next.
It's an ideal setup for them, isn't it? Anymore, the GOP, with very few exceptions, finds its purpose in conflict. It thrives on conflict. Without conflict, it would wither up like a tadpole out of water and die. When one source of conflict appears to be drying up--for instance, the Soviet Union 15 years ago--Republicans go looking for something else with which to be conflicted. Liberals. Environmentalists. Hollywood. Gays. Chinese. Republicans are like those pro wrestlers on teevee ... always yelling in someone's face to make sure they never run out of grudge matches. And illegal immigrants are perfect for abuse in that they have little recourse but to take it.
No, Republicans won't solve the problem. They will huff and puff and talk about getting tough, but in the end, they will follow the lead of their corporate masters, who see a steady stream of illegals as a boost to the bottom line.
In the meantime, Democrats will get rolled again if they don't watch out. I can already see the ads: "If it were up to the Democrats, the Alamo would be just another burrito joint!"
There may well be no satisfactory solution to this dilemma, but that's not the same as saying there isn't an advantage to be had by putting some sort of policy together. And if you think that sounds cynical, just wait till you hear what the Republicans do with it.