Why Republicans Can’t Be Trusted With Immigration Policy

I normally don’t do this kind of thing; respond on a point by point to an opinion piece. But Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard’s piece in the Detroit News (yes, I know, not so much a newspaper as a propaganda rag for Michigan Republicans) on immigration is so wrong in so many ways, that it is a textbook example of the misinformed, misguided, scare-mongering, willful ignorance put out by the Republican party and its conservative element nationwide on this issue.

Never before has protecting our borders and securing our homeland been more important. Yet, a bill in the United States Senate would allow an estimated 12 million to 20 million illegally in America a pathway to citizenship with relative ease.

For a Sheriff, he shows a surprising ignorance of the law. It is not technically against the law (a criminal offense) to enter the U.S. without documentation or to overstay a visa. No fines or jail terms are assessed for such an infraction. You are not charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony offense. What does happen? You get deported back to your country of origin.

Remember, that to gain a legal job, they must also commit identity theft. That is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. Giving illegal entrants to America citizenship sends the message that it is OK to break the rules, even though we are a nation governed by laws.

Nice slide of logic. Equating undocumented workers with identity thieves who trash people’s credit rating. Two different groups of people. Any statistics for this accusation? No. The Sheriff also doesn’t mention the businesses who hire undocumented immigrants and never bother to check the validity of their social security numbers (SSNs). It’s not as hard as one would believe.

What’s often lost in this particular aspect of the debate about undocumented workers is the fact that those with fake SSNs do end up paying income taxes, medicare, and social security. Here’s the kicker: when they retire, they never collect from the social security system because they aren’t eligible.

Not only does citizenship reward this illegal behavior, but it ignores an important question — how many of these illegal immigrants are in the United States to cause harm to the American way of life? That is a scary precedence to set, particularly when the challenge to secure our homeland remains a top priority.

Nevermind that he means “precedent.” Any Michigan Republican can make a sanuzism now and then. I like how he asks a question and then doesn’t answer it. Any facts there, Sheriff? No? Didn’t think so. Because they don’t support the Sheriff’s claim. In fact, according to the Immigration Policy Center the undocumented actually tend to have lower rates of crime and incarceration than the general population.

According to the report, it is a myth that immigrants increase the rate of crime in the United States. Data from the U.S. census and other sources show that for every ethnic group — without exception — incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants. This is true especially for the Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans who make up the bulk of the undocumented immigrant population. Moreover, these patterns have been observed consistently over the last three decennial censuses – a period that includes the current era of mass immigration. And they recall similar national findings reported by three major government commissions during the first 30 years of the 20th Century.

Crime in the United States is not caused or even aggravated by immigrants, say Rumbaut and Ewing, regardless of their legal status. The misperception to the contrary undermines the development of reasoned public policy responses to both crime and immigration.

For example, as part of an amnesty program in 1986, Mahmoud “The Red” Abouhalima was granted legal status in the United States, even though his application information was fraudulent. Little did we know that “The Red” was a terrorist who eventually became one of the leaders in the attacks against the World Trade Center in 1993. Moreover, his conveniently acquired legal status allowed him the freedom to travel and participate in terrorist training overseas.

This is known as the Willie Horton Attack: cite one egregious example to indict the whole. You could make the same argument against law enforcement; they should have stopped the attack before it happened. But I won’t make that ridiculous argument because it’s not a fair one to make, smearing law enforcement merely for the sake of a political point. Just like smearing undocumented immigrants because of one terrorist.

Even closer to home is a recent incident where a Romanian refugee entered the United States illegally — twice. His story ended after he beat, cut and kidnapped a couple from Rochester Hills before turning the gun he stole on himself.

Worse yet, this was not his first encounter with the law or our court system. The last time he snuck into America and showed up in Oakland County he was arrested for another crime involving a gun.

Again, the Sheriff shows his ignorance of immigration law. If the Romanian in question was a refugee, then he was not in the U.S. in any undocumented manner. Refugee status is awarded to someone by the U.S. State Department after a long review process. And again the Sheriff uses the Willie Horton Attack to whip up fear.

It is important that our borders remain open to those who aspire to find a better life, an American way of life, on U.S. soil. We know that the vast majority of those coming to America are coming for the good reasons-to make a better life for themselves and their family. I respect that a great deal, we are a nation of immigrants. My grandfather came through Ellis Island.

By this logic his grandfather was honest and all of the undocumented immigrants aren’t. Nice. He also forgets that we are not entirely a nation of immigrants. There are still a few million Native Americans who survived the wars and disease brought by Europeans. Their input on immmigration policy is ignored.

But there is a right way to do things and a wrong way.

Here the Sheriff uses President Bush’s “you are either with us or against us” reasoning, meant of course, to persuade readers in a calm reasonable manner. Notice that he doesn’t even offer up an immigration reform plan anywhere in this piece. Not even on his web site either. Eight months after he lost to Stabenow, apparently he’s still running for the Senate.

We need immigration reform that is secure, timely, balanced and accountable. However, the clear and pressing need is to secure our borders first. Anything less will only bring further financial, economic and social trouble to the United States.

He believes that we have to think of everything in terms of 9/11. Everyone is a suspect. And as we all learned from Brazil, “Be Safe: Be Suspicious” and “Suspicion Breeds Confidence”.

Webster’s Dictionary defines amnesty as, “government pardon granted to a number of offenders.” That definition and provisions in the recently introduced immigration reform bill sound very similar.

In 1986, then President Ronald Reagan gave amnesty to 2.7 million illegal immigrants.

Including that terrorist the Sheriff mentioned earlier. Yes, you heard it right from a Republican. Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to someone who became a terrorist. Therefore amnesty is wrong, wrong, wrong, no matter how hard-working the vast majority of these undocumented immigrants are.

Today, that number has grown extensively. History shows anytime you reward something, you get more of it. Simply stated, as written, this bill improperly places politics and expediency over the rule of law and security.

Businesses have been rewarded continuously for hiring undocumented immigrants. Restaurants, hotels, meat-processing plants, farmers, home builders, etc. They knew then that if they hired undocumented immigrants that they would not be prosecuted for it, so they have continued to do so in order to sell cheaper goods and services and make fatter profits. Even though employing undocumented immigrants is a criminal act. Funny how the Sheriff seems to have forgotten that portion of the criminal code.

But what he ignores is that the reason people keep coming here, documented or not, is that they are rewarded with jobs. What we have here is an illegal employer problem. Not an illegal immigrant problem.

For Michigan, this is a close and personal issue. ICE and the Border Patrol do all they can in the face of this tide, but they are not given the tools and support they need. The northern border has one-tenth the border patrol agents as the southern border. The only terrorist stopped at a border crossing on the way to commit an act of terror was at a northern border.

By which he means when the terrorist was caught the system worked. But he wants more money anyway to hire more police to patrol our northern border because he doesn’t trust Canada to control it’s own borders. Oh, and just ignore the fact that the 9/11 hijackers were all given temporary visas at U.S. consulates around the world, including 15 in Saudi Arabia.

Immigration reform is an issue which will shape our future and the future of our children for years to come.

In other words: since the majority of these undocumented people are Mexican or Latino, this would be bad news for the future of the Republican party. Once they do become citizens Latinos tend to identify strongly with the Democratic party. This simply can not be allowed.

If you are here illegally, you have to go back and pay three out of the last five years in taxes. American citizens pay five out of five.

And businesses will pay what for having employed said undocumented workers? Nothing.

Again he ignores the fact that those with fraudulent documents do in fact pay taxes. And those that don’t have documents still pay taxes on whatever goods and services they buy, just like everyone else. They also effectively pay property taxes if they’re renting.

The Senate actually voted against prohibiting all felons from being given this amnesty including those that are convicted sex offenders and failed to register. (That includes both of Michigan’s senators.)

I’ve had some difficulty tracking down the actual vote on this. All I can find is that the Senate voted to move the bill to the floor for debate. This bill died two days later when the Senate couldn’t muster enough votes to end debate on it. Voting to send a bill to the floor for debate is not the same as voting for the bill. Notice that he doesn’t say felons are now given amnesty.

Also, there’s something that doesn’t make sense about the Sheriff’s claim or even need for this provision. If an immigrant, documented or not, is convicted of an aggravated felony (rape, murder, sexual abuse of a mnor, drug trafficking, etc.), that is grounds for their deportation. In fact, there appears to be a problem now with overzealously categorizing crimes allegedly commited by immigrants as aggravated felonies in cases where a misdemeanor ought to be the classification.

Let me close with the words of Theodore Roosevelt on immigrants and being an American penned in 1919:

Translation: what follows is a quote from someone far more eloquent than I, someone who used to write his own speeches and op-ed pieces, unlike me who works from Conservative Republican talking points.

“In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American. …There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag we have room for but one language here, and that is the English language…and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”

This is another Republican trope: patriotism. There isn’t a single global corporation that does business in the United States that is loyal to anyone but its shareholders. If a business leaves a state, for some reason they are not considered disloyal; it’s because the economic policies/conditions are too harsh. Businesses that incorporate in the Cayman Islands or Dubai to avoid paying U.S. taxes, or outsource labor to markets that provide little if any protections for workers or the environment, all get a pass from the Republican party. Yet somehow, people are supposed to be “more loyal” (whatever that means) to the U.S. when they live here. I don’t know how much more loyal you can get to our country than by living, working, paying taxes, and raising a family here, good English skills or not. The person who immigrates here but has trouble learning English, or insists on displaying a flag from their home country inside their own house, is somehow disloyal and deemed a bigger threat to our democracy than the relocating corporation.

As usual it’s okay for capital (that thing that creates jobs) to flow freely across borders, but not people (those beings that need jobs).

Michael Bouchard is a Sheriff who (like most members of the Republican party on this particular issue) clearly can’t be bothered with facts. Which is troubling, since he’s in charge of enforcing the law and establishing the facts of criminal cases in Oakland county so that prosecutors can convict alleged perpetrators of crime and have them put in jail. Maybe he should refocus his energies on serving his current constituency (brushing up on the law to do so) instead of publishing poorly-informed screeds meant to give himself a platform to run for higher public office. As long as he continues down this path, I can only hope that the voters of Michigan continue to frustrate his aspirations.


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