Right-wing politicians are trying to fan the flames of passion over immigration during the current election campaign. So far they have met with mixed success, but as the election nears and the Right becomes more desperate, we can expect their efforts to intensify and the flames to grow higher. How should labor respond?
The importance of immigration as a campaign issue varies from region to region and from constituency to constituency. Nationally, just 15% of those surveyed in December in a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll list immigration as a “top priority” in the coming election, and only 27% list it as “one of the most pressing problems facing the country”, but 81% think it is an “important” issue. The two parties are running true to form. Republican candidates, trolling for votes among the nativist wing of the party, are vying to see who can promise the longest and the highest wall along the Mexican border and the most vicious law enforcement in the rest of the country. Democrats, unsure of where key parts of their base stand and unwilling to stick their necks out, are scrambling for cover with rhetoric about the need for “comprehensive” immigration reform. This duck and cover approach is reflected in replies to a question about immigration and the election posed by the New Republic in November to five prominent Democratic “strategists and consultants” likely to play a key role in the upcoming election.
The press conveniently divides the debate between those candidates who believe in “enforcement only” approaches and those who believe in “enforcement and a road to citizenship”. It is assumed that everyone believes in “border security”. Other approaches are pushed from mainstream media.
Gone are the hopeful days of two years ago when millions were in the streets demanding immigration reform and amnesty for the undocumented. Instead a Pew Research poll released last week shows that, “just over half of all Hispanic adults in the US worry that they, a family member or a close friend could be deported…..” And, “nearly two-thirds say the failure of Congress to enact an immigration reform bill has made life more difficult for all Latinos.”