|An immigration rally on Capitol Hill|
The immigration reform bill that recently made it out of the Senate with a big majority is now languishing in the House, where most Republicans are eyeing it as though it had been laced with a strain of bubonic plague.
We should be worried. Rank and file GOP supporters hate the bill. More than that, they apparently hate the idea that the invisible people who staff our nation’s restaurants and bars, who pick our lettuce and recycle our trash, who live in fear of an early morning visit from the Department of Homeland Security, will at last be given some measure of security.
Why reward their lawlessness, they cry? These aren't people, they're illegal immigrants, they broke the law to come here!
But the truth is that it's the people who knowingly employ them who are really breaking the law. If you want to talk about illegality you should probably start there.
Besides, if you live in New York City you already know how hard immigrants work. You have no excuse to not know, if you can look around you.
You also know just how little they're paid for all that hard work. That means it's impossible to portray them as the loafers and spongers Tea Party activists insist they are. That doesn't comport with the reality on the ground.
The thing about reality is that it's very untidy. It rarely ever comports to a party political platform.
That leaves you with a stark choice -- you can either confront the real issues that affect the nation, or you can argue that the issues shouldn't exist so there's no point in trying.
For over two decades the GOP has consistently chosen the latter route. Party leaders have no incentive to address things as they are, when things as they ought to be have proven to be much bigger vote getters.
More and more Congress refuses to compromise any of its core conservative principals. Stalemate is the result.
That's what we're looking at this week. I wish it were otherwise.
Apparently nothing assures voters that things will somehow work out quite the way total desperation does. That's why there are tens of thousands in the Irish community who are still praying for an unlikely change of heart from the GOP.
Stop being so hardline, we have asked them. Make an exception for us. We're really nice.
Here's why we should be worried. On every modern issue confronting the GOP, the party has found itself fatally linked to the fundamentalisms of the past.
On women's rights, on health care, on education, on giving tax cuts to the rich, on restricting or banning abortion, on labor unions, on gay rights, on immigration reform, the party has moved so far to the right and so far into the past that it's been out of step with mainstream opinion for years.
Progressive activists don't mind. Let the GOP line up its circular firing squad, they say. The country has moved on without them.
The chances of the Irish demographic getting a major reform bill are inextricably tied to the chances of the much larger Latino demographic getting one, and Republican activists are openly hostile to them politically and, it turns out, socially too.
Phyllis Schlafly, the longtime Religious Right leader went on the radio last week to explain that Latinos don’t understand the Bill of Rights, and they keep having so many illegitimate babies, just like the blacks. She actually used the phrase the blacks.
“I don’t think they have Republican inclinations at all,” Schlafly explained. “They’re running an illegitimacy rate that’s just about the same as the blacks are. And the point fact is they come from a country where they have no experience with limited government, and the types of rights we have in the Bill of Rights. They don’t understand that at all. You can’t even talk to them about what the Republican principle is.”
Our Irish ancestors used to hear this kind of barely concealed racism directed at them in the 19th century. That kind of high handed language is just as toxic and dismissive to the fondest hopes and dreams of millions in 2013.