This article in the Christian Science Monitory highlights the continued hysteria in some segments of the U.S. population regarding the idea of amnesty for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
It appears that Janet Napolitano’s suggestion that that the U.S. is ready to address immigration reform (emphasizing that the borders are now secure) may have been a bit premature:
Coming off a muscle-flexing summer of widespread protests and success in the off-year elections, the Tea Party coalition began its first major realignment Saturday, joining forces with anti-immigration reform groups in over 50 “Tea Party Against Amnesty and Illegal Immigration” rallies across the US in places from Anchorage, Alaska, to Snead, Alabama.
Critics say the emerging Tea Party coalition reminds them of the mid-1800s Whig party realignment, as pro-slavery Southern Whigs aligned themselves with anti-immigration forces, leading to the formation of the Know Nothing Party and the eventual demise of the Whigs as Northerners formed the Republican party.
A similar dynamic (minus the slavery issue) could be at play today. A big question for conservatives has been whether the Tea Party energy can be captured by the Republican Party or whether the Constitutionally-minded political insurgency will ultimately hurt the GOP’s “big tent” strategy to incorporate moderates into a revived voting bloc.
But treated at first as a joke by many liberals, the Tea Party movement has slowly earned the respect of mainstream analysts as it’s proved effective at mobilizing critical independents and, some say, helping to change the dynamics of the 2010 Congressional elections.
As a result, immigration reform proponents are tempering their optimism in the face of protests like the ones that took place Saturday.
“What are the prospects for an immigration law to pass? In my view decent,” says Arian Campo-Flores in a Newsweek op-ed. “That may sound naïve, given the fact that unemployment has topped 10 percent and tea-party activists are feeling more energized than ever.”
We can only hope that the Tea-party supporters and their anti-immigrant minions follow the path of the Know-nothing party into the pages of history. For now, I’d like to see some solid research about what most Americans think about immigration reform and amnesty, and let that knowledge direct the actions of Congress rather than the nativist rantings of a group who can’t stop looking to the past as a path to the future.