Way back kin 1847 we fought a war with Mexico and General Winfield “Old Fuss and Feathers” Scott and the redoubtable General Zachary Taylor won handily and we conquered the country and their government went into exile. A very sharp guy named Nicholas Trist negotiated with their exiled government for more than a year, offering them money and trade deals and debt forgiveness if they'd just come back and resume control of their huge, wretched country full of peasants. All we wanted was to keep the nice northern parts like California and Texas where a bunch of Anglos had settled along with Mexico's politically persecuted intellectuals who had been exiled to the borderlands. Eventually a treaty was worked out and everyone was happy…
Well, everyone except for the people in Mexico, and apparently Mexicans have a long, long memory. From that time forward a combination myth, philosophy and political movement too vague to hang your hat directly on, but very real nonetheless, has existed in Mexico called “La Reconquista”. The name is borrowed from the Christian reconquest of Spain from the Moors and it is the idea that someday Mexico would seize its lost northern territories back from the United States. To Pancho Villa that meant an excuse for raping and pillaging in border towns while pretending to be a patriot, but more recently and more practically in the minds of activits, it has meant the reconquest of those territories not through warfare but through gradual infiltration and cultural domination. The operating principle is actually remarkably similar to the one used to take those territories from Mexico in the first place. Anglo-Americans moved into Mexican-ruled Texas and California - often illegally - and then when there were enough of them settled in, they began complaining about the inefficient, corrupt and abusive Mexican government and calling on the United States to come save them, which the US government eagerly did. In the same way, you now have Mexicans flooding over the border to settle in the southwestern states, and once their numbers are large enough their activist spokesmen can feel justified in demanding rights and power from the US government, hoping to win control of those states by the pure influence of their numbers.
We saw this demonstrated over the weekend in the nationwide marches of hundreds of thousands - perhaps as many as a million - illegal immigrants and their supporters in major cities, especially in the southwest. In the face of efforts in Congress to define the status of illegal immigrants and set a viable policy for dealing with them in the future, they came out and showed their strength by filling the streets and demanding fair treatment - in effect demanding that the success of “La Reconquista” be recognized.
To be fair, most of these marchers were not actually lllegal immigrants. Most illegals don't give a damn about the political ideology of a 150 year old vendetta. They want to work hard, send money home to their families and not do something dumb like marching around with a sign so they get deported. The crowds at the marches were hispanic activists from groups like the National Council of La Raza, well-meaning hispanics of legal status, and the usual core of extreme left crazies who will show up at any march carrying a completely inappropriate sign promoting their personal pet cause. Nonetheless, with a generously estimated 500,000 turning out in Los Angeles, it looked pretty impressive on the news.
At issue are two bills in the Congress and local legislation in states like Arizona and Georgia which are designed to control immigration and the status of immigrants and set policy for future border crossings.
In the House of Representatives Senator James Sensenbrenner has proposed a bill (HR 4437) which would make illegal immigration a felony, increase the power of local law enforcement in apprehending illegals, and build a 700 mile long fence to help control the border. Particularly controversial are provisions which would make it a crime to provide assistance or even charity to illegal immigrants, and would bar them from any kind of state medical or charitable assistance. The law would even require charitable aid workers to turn in immigrants or face felony charges themselves. There's no question that something needs to be done, and taking a firmer line on immigration isn't a bad idea. But this bill is truly draconian, and would potentially end up with so many people arrested that we'd end up spending ridiculous amounts of money feeding and housing enormous numbers of detained illegals, mounting countless costly trials and putting a lot of relatively innocent people under threat of felony convictions. To its credit, a great deal of what's in this bill really isn't directed at Mexican illegals who want to work. It pays a lot of attention to filling weaknesses in border and port security in defense against potential terrorism. It also has strong provisions against criminal gangs. So there are some desirable if rather hardline ideas in the bill. Perhaps its largest shortcoming is that it is all enforement with no provisions at all for any kind of guest worker program. It is this bill which most of the protestors are reacting to, despite the fact that there is limited support for it in the Senate and its companion bill S. 2454 may not even get out of committee.
The answer to this bill from moderates in the Senate is the McCain-Kennedy Bill (S.1033) and its equivalent in the House (HR 2330). This bill has major support in the Senate from important figures, but much weaker support in the House. Nonetheless it looks a lot more likely to actually pass both houses than the more radical Sensenbrenner bill. This bill is much weaker and vaguer on enforcement and lacks some of the extreme measures to punish employers and aid workers, though it does have provisions to limit access to medical care and charity programs. It's also a lot less focused on issues of crime and homeland security. It also offers what is effectively amnesty to those currently in the country illegally if they fulfill certain requirements, pass a security check and pay a hefty fine. On the plus side, it does include rudimentary provisions for a guest worker program as well as expanding the availability of visas and the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this bill is its call for various reforms in land ownership rights and economic structure within Mexico to try to create a better environment there to help keep their workers at home. In general this bill is seen as much more appealing by those who favor immigration, but there is a lot of concern over the general amnesty and lack of strong enforcement provisions.
If the process works the way it should the best parts of these bills will be combined together into something acceptable in the House and Senate committees and a workable joint bill will be produced. A combination of the border security and anti-crime elements of the Sensenbrenner bill and the guest worker program of the McCain-Kennedy bill with some of the more extreme punitive elements taken out would progably be ideal. The McCain-Kennedy bill is vague and not terribly thorough. Despite the rather unappealing ideas it contains, the Sensenbrenner bill is remarkably clear and well written and would make a good starting point. It could provide the framework for the final bill….