It is the election year and here they go again – politicians
– using the age-old “illegal alien” excuse to cover up their three-year fiestas
and siestas in Washington, D.C.
Watch them take that same, predictable immigration debate circus
from Congress – the one where Democrats propose a solution and Republicans
oppose and vice versa – to the campaign trail. Like the show in Congress, this
too will feature dozens of hours of partisan arguments about why “fences” and “amnesty”
are bad for America.
Republicans, eager to prove that their law enforcement
solution to the problem is the most effective, will start pushing the
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to round up and deport “all
To show that it is not the sluggish, ineffective and
wasteful agency that it has been accused to be, ICE will push “Operation
Endgame,” its plan to deport “all removable aliens” by 2012. (The recent ICE
raid at a meat processing plant in Postville,
Iowa – the largest at any one
location – is part of that game plan).
With every such raid, Democrats will pretend like they were
not part of that dog and pony show we saw on CSPAN during the immigration
debate in Congress. They will lash out at Republicans and the Bush
administration, hoping to woo pro-immigrant groups, or “the Latino vote,” as
they like to call us, to elect a Democrat in November.
Republicans will stick to their guns and deny that the
economy is headed downhill. They will swear that unemployment will vanish once
the next Republican administration deports the “illegal aliens” that taking all
the jobs from “the American people.” They will promise to deport12 million “illegals”
– a population the size of the entire state of Illinois – in four years. That is four
million new jobs a year!
Democrats will oppose a fence along the Mexican border and vow
that “the path to citizenship” (not “amnesty”) is the ideal solution to the
problem of “undocumented immigrants.” They don’t know how this plan of theirs
is going to be different from Bill 1200 – the similar 1986 amnesty legislation
that failed – but “families will stay together.”
Like that war in Congress, this too will fail to find a
remedy to illegal immigration agreeable to both parties.
But the loudest noise maker – the party able to “energize
the base” – will move into the White House in January, while the runner-up will
control Congress to check the powers. Democracy shall have prevailed, and the immigration
circus will return in 2011 or thereabouts.
Democrats and Republicans are able to use us, immigrants, as
one of the focal points in their scramble for power only because they don’t
quite understand our power. In fact, we immigrants allow them to use us as
scapegoats because we don’t know how mighty we are.
A great misconception of “the American people” is that
immigrants have no right to vote. Contrary to that belief, there are millions
of naturalized U.S.
citizens who are eligible to vote. A study released in March 2007 by the Pew HispanicCenter showed that in 2005, the year
when the latest data was available, 52 percent of all immigrants – 14.4 million
people – were naturalized U.S.
citizens with full rights to vote. That was a “historic high” in 25 years.
It’s high time we let Washington
know that we are here.
We must use our right to vote to make politicians from both
parties know that we can no longer let them use the word “immigrants” as a
playground to distract the country from issues like the ailing economy, the
deteriorating educational system, the endless war in Iraq and other matters that
threaten the welfare of this great nation.
We immigrants need to take advantage of our numbers and flex
to show our real power. A good beginning would be to form a League of Immigrant
Voters or something of that sort. If we fail, we shall forever be the arena
gladiators practice their partisan wars.
About Edwin Okong'o - Mshale Contributing Editor
Edwin Okong'o is a Mshale Contributing Editor. Formerly he was the newspaper's editor.