Bill Richardson’s Immigration Reform Plan

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Heath Haussamen has information on Richardson’s four-point plan for immigration reform:

In a major policy speech that was perhaps a prelude to a presidential run, N.M. Gov. Bill Richardson outlined today his plan for immigration reform in the United States and said the Democratic-controlled Congress has a duty to act on it in 2007.

During the speech at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Richardson called on Congress to repeal a law passed earlier this year to create a $6 billion fence along the border.

Check the post for the details.

Bush: “Let’s throw some money at the problem…”

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Once again, President Bush has proven that no problem is too big or too controversial that it can’t be solved with massive giveaways to corporate campaign contributors and a corresponding increase in the national debt. The New York Times reports today that:

Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, three of the largest (contractors), are among the companies that said they would submit bids within two weeks for a multibillion-dollar federal contract to build what the administration calls a “virtual fence” along the nation’s land borders.

Using some of the same high-priced, high-tech tools these companies have already put to work in Iraq and Afghanistan — like unmanned aerial vehicles, ground surveillance satellites and motion-detection video equipment — the military contractors are zeroing in on the rivers, deserts, mountains and settled areas that separate Mexico and Canada from the United States.

Folks around the Web have caught on, but nobody in New Mexico has picked up on the story yet. It strikes me as somewhat odd: rather than spend the money to train Border Patrol agents (most likely at the facility in Artesia), who would then live in border communities and contribute to the local economy, by buying homes and shopping at local (sic) grocery stores, the government is going to spend the cash on high-tech gizmos. I might be more enthusiastic, but here’s how the government’s tech programs have worked out in the past:

The government’s track record in the last decade in trying to buy cutting-edge technology to monitor the border — devices like video cameras, sensors and other tools that came at a cost of at least $425 million — is dismal.

Because of poor contract oversight, nearly half of video cameras ordered in the late 1990’s did not work or were not installed. The ground sensors installed along the border frequently sounded alarms. But in 92 percent of the cases, they were sending out agents to respond to what turned out to be a passing wild animal, a train or other nuisances, according to a report late last year by the homeland security inspector general.

A more recent test with an unmanned aerial vehicle bought by the department got off to a similarly troubling start. The $6.8 million device, which has been used in the last year to patrol a 300-mile stretch of the Arizona border at night, crashed last month.

(emphasis mine)

And for a different take, here’s former New Mexican Kathy Flake on other options for that cash:

I wonder what would happen if we spent billions on job growth programs in Mexico?

That’s an interesting idea! Why don’t we try to fix the source of problem?

Thanks to Needlenose for the heads up.

On Immigration

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I think it’s telling that the conventional wisdom has shifted as Bush’s poll numbers have fallen. It used to be that, when the president crafted policy for political reasons, there was little recognition of the stunt. Now, however, many more people are prepared to call a spade a spade:

President Bush’s plan to send thousands of National Guard troops to secure the U.S.-Mexico border is appropriately being met with skepticism. It’s a blatant attempt to appease the conservative base in an election year when his approval rating is headed toward zero.

Haussaman’s got a good entry on the subject, so check it out. Also, I would recommend this post at Think Progress that discusses the poor shape of our National Guard, whose personnel and equipment have been depleted by the War on Terra. And, lest I try to best his comments, read Kevin Drum’s impressions of the speech itself:

The immigration speech seemed like it was mostly just the same ‘ol same ‘ol. Nickel version: Beef up the borders with troops and high tech wizardry but insist that it’s not “militarization”; start up a guest worker program that’s not called a guest worker program; introduce an amnesty program but insist that it’s not an amnesty program (it’s not, it’s not, it’s not!); and crack down on employers who employ illegal immigrants while pretending that they’re actually victims of highly sophisticated fraud rather than willing coconspirators aided and abetted by the business wing of the Republican Party.

I’m wary, however, of rejoicing completely. Bush’s speech, to me, guarantees one thing: a boost in those low poll numbers I told you about earlier. I don’t think it can be avoided, because his numbers are incredibly, fantastically low. And much of the discontent has come from conservatives. With this move to appease the base, I imagine Dubya will see a small jump at least – there’s just no other direction for the numbers to go.

Regardless, the latest news from the White House is, once again, policy that offers a temporary solution. Mexico and Latin America need higher paying jobs for their residents if we’re going to stem the tide of people seeking the American Dream. And putting National Guard troops in a “support role” doesn’t put more Border Patrol agents on the ground, something lawmakers in Congress and border governors have been asking for for years.
UPDATE: More from the Carpetbagger Report:

“Bush aims for middle ground; but misses everyone”

Last night, in his first Oval Office address on domestic public policy, Bush had a few goals in mind. It’s not at all clear he achieved any of them.

Did the proposals win anyone over? Apparently not.

For one thing, the plan isn’t terribly ambitious. When the White House said it wanted to avoid militarizing the border, it meant it — the 6,000 troops won’t even be seizing illegal immigrants or patrolling the border; they’ll instead help provide logistical support and taking on administrative tasks. Conservatives envisioned Guard troops taking on law-enforcement responsibilities, nabbing those who try to enter the country illegally. That’s not Bush’s plan at all. As the LA Times put it, “[T]he president’s big initiative is heavy on symbolism but will be small in scale — and largely invisible on the ground.”

UPDATE II: There’s even more from David Neiwert:

Why, if post-9/11 border security is such a suddenly serious concern, aren’t we sending the Guard to the Canadian border? — It is, after all our longest and most porous border, and its many open spots do not entail dangerous and potentially lethal desert crossings. Perhaps more to the point, the one terrorist who did try to sneak into the USA with explosives as part of a plot to attack a major metropolitan area was caught on the Canadian border.

Ah well. We’re not accustomed to logic from this president anyway, especially when it’s a twofer: a good photo op and rescuing your poll standings with the base are all in the offing. Especially if you can do it with military troops in the picture. Too bad about those cuts in the Border Patrol staffing last year.

UPDATE III: Welcome everybody from the Council on Foreign Relations!

Condi Rice, Laura Bush support Spanish versions of National Anthem

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I was tipped off to this while I was at District Court Monday morning, and a quick Google search turned up this post over at The American Street:

In 1919, the U.S. Bureau of Education commissioned a Spanish translation of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which the evil liberal assimilationists at the Library of Congress have the temerity to display — in its entirety — on the Library of Congress web site. Where is the outrage over that? Worse, we have The National Anthem Project, chaired by none other than Laura Bush, which offers a mariachi arrangement of the anthem. Dio mio, shouldn’t they be calling for Laura’s head on a stick for this?

UPDATE: Condi joins the assimilationist conspiracy! A Spanish version of the national anthem is also posted on the State Department’s site. Does George know?

Of course, the post was ripe with sarcasm on this issue, because, as usual, the right wing of the Republican Party is taking a stand on shaky ground:

Deep murmurs of approval arose from the crowd yesterday when Bush weighed in on the matter:

I think the National Anthem ought to be sung in English. And I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English, and they ought to learn to sing the National Anthem in English.

The profound irony of this nonsense is that, according to a recent Harris Poll, two-thirds of the clamoring crowd don’t even know the English words to the first verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner” (much less the other verses) and thus have been shouting huzzahs to Bush for suggesting that perhaps they shouldn’t even be citizens. Or maybe this rule about learning to sing the anthem in English doesn’t apply to, you know, white people.

The hypocrisy is beyond funny in the immigration debate. I’ve heard several people recently reduce the debate to the word “illegal,” while the Wednesday Morning Quarterback made a similar case yesterday:

OK, Jerry…so if you are one of those people in this country who supports actually securing the nation’s border as well as requiring all people in this country to FOLLOW THE LAW whether you are Nordic, Asian, or Hispanic, than according to you, those people are “AGAINST the more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the United states”.

The WMQB, like millions of Americans, believe that laws are laws…we either follow them and enforce them or we are nothing.

But to reduce the discussion over the legality and the enforcement of our current laws to defining people LIKE US as being “AGAINST” 11 million people is absolutely shameful…

Meanwhile, we can reduce the discussion about immigration in this country to their “illegal” status? What of the discussion regarding the employers who hire illegal immigrants? Don’t we enforce laws about the hiring of illegal immigrants? What happens to the agriculture industry, not to mention construction and hospitality, when all those illegal immigrants go home or are incarcerated? The WMQB is right: this is not a simple discussion. It should not be treated that way.

National Day of Action

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There will be an observance of the National Day of Action for immigrant justice on Monday, May 1, in Silver City — a “Picnic in the Park” — at Gough Park, 4-7 pm. Bring your own picnic, join with others, hear some music, raise your consciousness and support immigrant justice — all happening May 1.

Jesse Jackson talks immigration on CR

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Is it just me, or was Jesse Jackson delivering a thoughtful, coherent message on the Colbert Report Tuesday night? I know I’m late getting to this, but I wanted to find the video before I posted it. Check the Comedy Central site to watch, but here are a few tidbits, starting with one on undocumented workers:

Well, many of them have been sent for — they’re coming across the border.

As so long as they were working for low wages, working without health insurance, as long as they were picking lettuce, and tomatoes, and grapes, and in the corners, they were just fine.

Once they started asking for the right to organize, and dignity and health care, then they became a problem

The fact is these are human beings who deserve human rights, and we cannot be the nation we’re supposed to be unless we afford them human rights. You’re not going to send 11 million people back across the border.

Jackson also touches on our relationship with Mexico, which, along with Canada, is one of our two largest trading partners:

We share 2,000 miles of border with Mexico, we’re either going to lift them up, or in substance they’re going to lower us down. I say build bridges and not walls.

This is absolutely right. We can close our border all we want, but that still leaves more than 25 million undocumented workers (not every undocumented worker is a Mexican) in the U.S. We simply cannot send them all home. If we don’t provide a route to citizenship, we relegate them to second-class status, with all the consequences of that action: poverty, poor educational attainment, and discrimination.

In addition, we encourage businesses to exploit them, yet whine about the jobs they take away from Americans.

Anyway, I spoke with Sen. Bingaman yesterday afternoon (see the Daily Press today) and he said there would likely be no action on an immigration bill in the Senate this week. So, I guess we’ll see what goes down over the weekend.