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Parsing the Polls: The Immigration Conundrum

The U.S. Senate has begun to debate whether and how to deal with the problem of illegal immigration in America, a debate that has already divided the Republican Party and could have major consequences in the 2006 midterms and the 2008 presidential election.

Listen to any conservative radio talk show host or watch recent marches in the streets of Los Angeles and several other cities to get a sense of the passion the issue engenders.

But look at polls asking voters what the most important problem is facing the country, and that passion is simply not reflected.

A CBS News poll conducted March 9-12 asked: "What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?" The war in Iraq led the way with 20 percent, followed by economy/jobs (13 percent), terrorism (6 percent), health care (5 percent), gas/heating oil crisis (4 percent), foreign policy (4 percent) and immigration (4 percent).

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in late January asked voters "which one of these items you think should be the top priority for the federal government." Twenty-one percent of respondents said the war in Iraq, 19 percent cited job creation and economic growth. Health care received the support of 16 percent, terrorism 14 percent and "illegal immigration" (not simply "immigration") nine percent.

When people are prompted in polls about their level of concern regarding illegal immigration, a strong majority expresses considerable worry. In the same NBC/WSJ poll cited above, 71 percent of the sample said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate "who favors tighter controls on illegal immigration." A Time poll from January found similar results, with better than 60 percent of those tested saying illegal immigration was an "extremely" or "very" serious problem.

So why does immigration rank so low on some polls while voters also express so much concern about it in others? The Fix was perplexed, so we sought help from a few top political pollsters.

What did we find?

First and foremost, immigration (illegal and otherwise) falls into the same issue matrix with voters as issues like abortion, gun control and congressional ethics. None of these issues ever rate highly when people are asked about the pressing issues the country's leaders should address, but they are significant drivers of the political debate because of the passion they evoke.

Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster and partner in the firm Ayres, McHenry & Associates, explained that the "political agenda is frequently driven by intensity as much as the breadth of the effect of an issue." Abortion is never mentioned as the most important issue by more than a few percent of voters in any poll, and yet "we talk about abortion incessantly," he said.

Fred Yang, a Democratic pollster with Garin-Hart-Yang Research, said immigration, abortion and gun control are not "clear cut issues" because they deal directly with individuals' "values." So while few voters see immigration as the most pressing problem of the day, many see it as an issue worthy of their attention and concern.

Glen Bolger, a partner in the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies, draws a comparison to the ethics issue when asked about the impact of immigration on the 2006 midterm elections. Even though ethics typically ranks extremely low on national priority questions, "that doesn't mean that people are saying 'We don't care about the issue,'" he said.

While many people don't specifically cite immigration as a pressing concern, Bolger said the effects (and strains) that immigration puts on the education and health care systems, or the doubts it raises about national security, have a major impact on many Americans' daily lives.

Under that line of thinking, immigration underpolls in these national priority questions because respondents who may be unhappy with immigration's impact on education or health care cite those particular issues rather than immigration itself.

Mark Blumenthal, a Democratic survey research professional and the author of the terrific Mystery Pollster blog, offered another potential explanation for the seeming disconnect between the energy surrounding the immigration issue and its relatively low standing in national polls.

"An issue need not be 'most important' to a majority of voters to help create a lot of grassroots energy," said Blumenthal. "If only one percent of the voters care passionately about something, that still adds up to roughly a million Americans."

Do any (or all) of the theories offered by these pollsters effectively explain the disparity to you? If not, sound off in the comments section below. I'll try to monitor the comments throughout the day and list some of the more interesting or insightful ones in a follow-up posting.

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 29, 2006; 8:19 AM ET
Categories:  Parsing the Polls  
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Many knowledges I have found here I would come back

Posted by: DoctorHorny | May 29, 2006 5:29 AM | Report abuse

Impossible, how GOOD your work is. I am realy surprised.

Posted by: gay jail sex | April 26, 2006 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I wish everybody do his job like you do

Posted by: Jokes | April 25, 2006 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I'm not even going to go into all the reasons I'm against ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION, because so many of our politicians do not understand the term 'ILLEGAL' anymore. All this administration and previous ones do is run around calling each other names and submit yet more laws, (which won't be followed either) so what's the point. This government hasn't listened to the American people for years. So here are some facts:
1. If you do not close the border you will never solve the immigration problem!
2. The middle class of this country have been paying for higher energy costs (thanks cheney) a WAR which was preconceived out of greed and revenge (thanks Bush). Not too mention the thousands killed and permanently disabled because of the lies of this white house.
3. We are paying for the tax cuts for wealthy individuals, because well, let's face it we don't donate enough to get into the eliete country club mentality of Washington politics.So, I suggest we hire our own lobbist and send them to Washington, apparently that's how our government works now.
4. We are paying for the soical service programs, healthcare, translation services in schools, hospitals, airports, government offices and of course the Department of health services, voting information to be printed in spanish and every other language because these people are not required to speak or learn english.
5. Higher property taxes to help offset the higher costs of healthcare, social services etc.
Finally, the people of the southern states found out where they sit on the "help" rung, dead last. So, why aren't middle class Americans out marching, why aren't middle class americans being listened too?
Why aren't middle class americans who built this country being treated fairly, I'll tell you why, VOTES VOTES VOTES!
Bush and Fox should get a room together since they seem to be such compadras!
The voting legal citizens of this country better start getting some kehonas and vote every one of these people no matter which side their on out of office! Let's clean house completely and everytime we vote someone in that speaks out of both sides of their mouths when they get to D.C. give em the axe! Let's close our borders and follow the AMERICAN CONSTITUTION, you know that piece of paper that Cheney and Bush have no use for.
Finally, I just have to say I find it ironic that there are still people in this country that fall all over themselves drooling about how faithful and moral Bush is! HA! Anyone can run around quoting scriptures, it's those that don't quote them but live by them I respect!
Thanks Sfilutze

Posted by: S Filutze | April 10, 2006 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Ignoring subject matter and focussing on polling, I think much of the disparate results can be attributed to the affiliations of the pollsters. If opinion research aspires to scientific rigor, what does it mean when polling is done by a Republican versus a Democratic pollster? Different science? The implications are that the outcome is fudged to produce a result favoring some desiderata. Who can have faith in that kind of science. Does a Republican engineer build a bridge differently from a Democratic one?

Posted by: Kantcould | March 31, 2006 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Raising immigration now is a desperate attempt to divert the public from the core issues! In that respect it5s just like gun control, right to life or any number of right wing base issues that are used to sway social conservatives. Its code for raising issues of race, sex, religion to arouse the right wing base.

Posted by: Hank D | March 31, 2006 12:55 AM | Report abuse

I was really enjoying this thread until it turned into the Common Cents soapbox rant. Sir/Madam, you make some good points, but fifteen lengthy posts in a really lost me. Literally, I stopped reading the thread after making my way through a few of your comments. It's not that I utterly disagree with you or that I'm offended, I just got bored. If you want to go on and on like this, start a blog and post a link. Then, get out of the way and allow other people to comment. It's not as if you're a voice crying in the wilderness - there are plenty of people voicing your side of this issue here.

Posted by: Venicemenace | March 30, 2006 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I don't see any incongurence with low rank (4% gave a #1 rank) and high passion (people in the streets). If I ask you to rank what is most important to you personally, you might list relatives, God, or values. Much lower on the list will be your personal possessions, inanimate objects. So, would it make sense that I could just help myself to your possessions? Nonsense. Low rank does not mean mow passion.

As to the people affected by this. A lot of these immigrants are sending money home to take care of their family. Wives. Kids. Do you love your kids? Are you willing to not see them for years on end so they can eat? Are you willing to pick lettuce all day? Are you willing to spend your nights in a miserable shanty? Have you been faced with these choices?

If you're an illegal immigrant you can't complain when you get stiffed all of your pay after you've worked. Remember your purpose in being here, that's money for your family. Do you believe like your working conditions? Are they safe? Illegal immigrants are paid like slaves, and sometimes treated as bad. They have no access whatsoever to redress anything done to them.

Many of the "illegal" (we just can't seem to emphasize that word enough, can we? Of course, these are our laws that we chose for us, which the immigrants violate by their existence on our land. Maybe the Indians have thoughts on this.) immigrants have stepped up to challenges we've never had to. Some humility on our part, and respect for them, would be as good for us as for them.

Posted by: djm | March 30, 2006 12:48 PM | Report abuse

The left reverend:

Do you suppose the war in Iraq and Afghanistan (including maintaining the role as the world police) have ANYTHING to do with the national debt? Are The illegals really are to blame?

Posted by: Kelly | March 30, 2006 12:33 PM | Report abuse


No it not occur to me to return home. My student visa was valid for 7 years (through undergrad and grad education) I arrived at 16 so I really didn’t have “roots” in the old country besides my parents. They’ve holidayed in the States every year. They’re never here for more than 2 months at a time though, especially my father. Incidentally, they were also educated here in the late 50’s and early ‘60 are but never even considered immigrating…if they had, I may have been born a US citizen.

The ONLY reason why I would come out of the proverbial shadows now is simply to be able to travel. I have the money, time and position but I’m unable to take my kids abroad. So, they see London, Paris and Rome with other relatives…they’re old enough to travel unaccompanied now, with their “blue” passports in hand.

I use the SAME SS# I was given when I applied for one at 16. You see, in those days, students were allowed SS ##’s without the “not valid for employment” stamp stamped on it. I needed one simply to open a bank account. I wasn’t thinking that this was going to be the document I was going to use to defraud the US govt. My parents PAID for all SIX years of my education here (I never used any public or financial aid, etc) and now I am paying them back by supporting them back home. They need me here now.

Yes, I own a home and TWO cars! I belong to a church, a sorority and several civic and professional organizations. My only regret, (sometimes) is that I’m not white. I have a young friend from Finland who’s only recently come to the US. The WAIVED (no visa for Europeans) entry time limit has just expired. Guess what? Even with a thick Scandinavian accent, she’s just got a job with nothing but her drivers license…it’s almost as if her employer was like “she’s blonde, green-eyed so she MUST be American or legal”!!! No other docs were requested…. Had she been my skin color, boy oh boy!

Posted by: Kelly | March 30, 2006 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Who decided "immigration" was a political problem? This is an economic situation. 90% of immigrants are people who are "in-sourcing" jobs by moving their bodies to the USA to do work for which there is a demand.

What are the great minds behind free markets saying about how to include labor in the free trade conversation?

We offer jobs at attractive salaries; people cross borders to take them. What do the Nobel prize economists suggest? Was the law of supply and demand repealed while I was asleep?

Who is talking about practical economic motivations to achieve results? What if we offer Mexico a trade package -- for each immigrant who comes to the US to work, Mexico loses $30,000 in aid. Would that get their attention?
The national debt is growing by $30,000 per second. We are selling our country off. We may as well use some of it to get a better deal.

Posted by: The left reverend | March 30, 2006 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Its the economy, stupid.

You can argue or debate until you are blue in the face, but the reason 12 million illegals are here is because Americans wanted then here. Producers, manufacturers, and consumers all. No one can conclusively demonstrate that he has been harmed significantly by illegal immigration to the point where it is a national rather than a personal problem. The best objective studies on the impact of illegal migration on labour rates suggest a very low 3-5% decrease in the low-skilled wage-a marginal impact at best. Not surprising that wages are somewhat depressed; the contrary would go against the most fundamental laws of economics. Wages need to be restrained if you want to maintain your standard of living.
Anyone who argues that these illegal immigrants are doing harm to the economy, employment, wages or whatever is simply expressing an ignorant opinion with no facts to support it.
Those who argue about cultural impact, lack of assimilation, not speaking English etc. etc. are essentially nativist bigots driven by ignorance and fear in a changing world beyond their comprehension. If the shoe fits wear it.
Then we have those who seem to think the issue is decided by intoning the mantra that illegal immigrants have broken the law. Problem solved. Do away with them. Apart from the fact that there are very few Americans who haven't broken some law or another, (let he who is without sin cast the first stone) what do you propose doing with the 12 million or so? In very practical terms: Who is going to do it? Law enforcement is already overburdened with much higher priorities. Where are you going to put them, the jails are already overcrowded? How are you going to move them, mass deportations in cattle-cars? Who are you going to blame when your economy goes down the tubes as a result?
Nobody, including myself, likes the idea of illegal immigration. The answer is to legalise what can't be stopped i.e. those who are here now, and determine systematically what is actually needed by the economy. Regulate it, document it and manage it.
Those who believe, without evidence, that willing American workers are being displaced might concentrate on requiring ALL employers to provide full medical coverage for their employees, which might bias employers, at the margin, to favour native-born unskilled workers with smaller families. Nonsense about raising the minimum wage is just that, nonsense. Such a tax on jobs would harm all unskilled workers whether legal or not. Economics 101.
Its the economy, stupid.

Posted by: Eric Yendall | March 29, 2006 8:57 PM | Report abuse

This is really about Republicans in Congress deciding when to say no to the big corporations and agricultural interests. The corporations and agricultural interests want unlimited cheap labor and the cost to society, paid for by us, is of little concern to them.

Already Senator Specter, Dewine, Graham and Brownback have caved in to special interests, and apparently there are other Republicans in the Senate who plan to do so.

Republicans seem to have learned that if you continually vote against the will of the majority you won't stay in power very long. Now they have to put aside their special interests and give the people what they want, which is a crackdown on illegal immigration.

Democrats have a significant different - a majority in this country do not support the radical immigration plan they have whole-heartedly embraced. Thus the Democrats look out of touch with America, and they are likely to remain in the minority until they are willing to stand up for the majority. That likely won't be any time soon with votes like this.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 29, 2006 6:53 PM | Report abuse

My husbands family immigrated from Italy back when the laws were enforced. They had to have a job and a sponser. His father and mother spoke italian in the home, however, told their children they must speak english, they flew the american flag outside their home, all of the sons served in the U.S. Military. They became American citizens.
We lived in California for a good number of years, in the wine country. The wineries and other business's and farming industry want illegal immegrants. They do not have to pay the SS and Medicare witholding, nor do the illegals have to pay taxes, so it's a win win situation for both the business and illegal. They send their money home, which is usually mexico, where their money goes much farther. Because of EMTALA laws, emergency rooms must treat these individuals, which if they aren't on medicaid they can usually get chairty or not pay at all. We recently moved back to our home state and guess what it's exactly the same situation here. Our grandkids living in California must now take Spanish , it's required, the signs are in spanish in the stores, they have interrupters in the stores, at hospitals, banks, you name it. Usually, several families live in one home, the one next to us in California, in a very nice neighborhood housed fifteen mexicans. There were at least that many cars broken down in the drivway and on the street, there were chickens in the backyard! The city manager lived one house over from us and flat out told us, we can't do anything because the wineries pull the purse strings of the government! This problem has been going on for years, back in the sixties we were asking for this problem to be taken care of. Now it's bigger, and worse then ever. This not only places a hugh burdon on middle class americans because we are the ones paying for their healthcare, but also the schools and infrastructer. Tell me this, what is it exactly does the word ILLEGAL mean. Oh, it's illegal if we want to enforce the laws. Not when it's in business's interest.
And please don't tell me they contribut to the economy. Like I said usually it's multiple families living in houses, we take care of the healtcare and spanish speaking aids and teachers in the schools, when property values are driven down because of this we pay because we cannot sell our homes for a fair price.The politicians don't care, they don't live in the type of neighborhoods that these illegals live in. They have health insurance so those of us fighting to stay above water are not only paying for our healtcare but for theirs. I have worked in healtcare for over thirty years and was flat out told by illegal hispanics that they come to america to have babies because it's free!!!!!!!!!!! NO IT'S NOT FREE. So while your grandma is struggling to pay for her prescirption drugs and heating bill, because her SS check just barely puts her above the poverty line to qualify for Medicaid and help, remember all those immegrants that are here illegally that we pay for. Oh, and by the way, the reason Bush and his buddies keep saying "they are working in jobs Americans won't work in",that's because most of the jobs they work in are paid at minimum wage or not very much above, and they are sending the majority of it home, untaxed. The rest of us are working our butts off and having witholding taken out, healtcare if your lucky and whatever is left goes to our own families. The guy that had the house next to us with the fifteen families told my husband, you Americans are stupid, we come here and work and live and you guys pay! That pretty much says it all. Until our politicians are not being bought and paid for by Business and farming corporations were never going to see any kind of immegration reform! It just sounds good at election time. Thanks Fed up and totally sick of what's happening to our country! Sue F

Posted by: Sue F | March 29, 2006 5:49 PM | Report abuse

cc said: We simply cannot reward people for breaking the law with American citizenship...with even the right to stay here and work.

But, politics aside, can we deport 12 million people? Even if they were willing to go, which they're not, it couldn't be done. It's not possible. And, furthermore, some of those 12 million have minor children who are American citizens for exactly the same reason that you and I are: They were born here.

We need an alternative!

Posted by: SJG | March 29, 2006 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Kelly, I think cc and I have quite different perspectives, but I'd be interested in knowing, too, how you made it work.

It doesn't seem like it would be so hard, actually, to get certain forms of identification since one is rarely asked for a birth certificate, but I'd think all that involvement with officialdom would create a big risk fo getting caught.

Posted by: Judi | March 29, 2006 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Kelly, question.

did it ever occur to you that what you were doing was illegal, and, like, not do it, and go home, and then apply for an H1 or J1 visa to work here legally?

At any time over that 20 year period?

..knowing that if you got caught, both you and your employer faced severe penalties?

In fact you actually paid taxes which I suppose means that you submitted a pay summary of some sort, to the IRS?

And what Social Security number or other form of identification did the IRS and your employer use to keep track of your year-to-date tax payments?

And, where did you live? How did you get to and from work? You married here in the US, in what state did you apply for a marriage license?

Do you own any credit cards...possibly real-estate...a car of your own? I take it that you have a checking and savings account to manage your finances...a 401k or other IRA?

You did all this, for years, how much did you worry, really, about being caught and deported?

Posted by: cc | March 29, 2006 5:05 PM | Report abuse

aiee...the more I read my own comments, the more I realise this is hopeless.

What are we going to do, spend billions more on domestic security? Hasn't happened yet...not gonna happen. Billions more to beef up the remnants of INS floating around in DHS? No. How are we going to find and arrest those who violate the immigration law?

We're not going to do it unless we catch them breaking the law in some other way.

And what will the punishment be? If it's jail, we are talking about jailing millions of illegals. It's not gonna be jail.

If I worked in Customs or Immigration, I would be laughing my ass off right now. Oh sure, you can catch someone. But for everyone you catch, dozens are going to get by. And hundreds are going to be perfectly normal citizens law-abiding and just going about their lives. It would be like trying to swat flies in a slaughterhouse.

Because they are leaving the blood on the floor, for the flies. And not closing the windows.

It is just too easy to get into this country. And there are too many benefits for being here.

Let's face it: why aren't these people going to some South American country, where most of the people already speak Spanish? Because they cannot make the money in Argentina, say, or Uruguay, or any other country...that they can make here. And because they would get killed if they tried to do it.

If they tried to leave El Salvador and stop *in* Mexico and settle down, they would lose an arm, or worse. Their women would be raped and the men killed (that happens often as it is). No, instead the authorities let them pass through, taking a percentage of the coyote fee...and, a percentage of whatever they are carrying on them. And the best-looking women.

But these people put up with it all, to get here.

Life is that good here, especially compared to where they started.

And they will put up with the risks, even the risk of possibly dying on the way, to get here and take a part of it.

Cause they know that once they are here, they are "golden". And they simply do not have the same opportunities, not even close, in South America.

...I imagine that if they did, those opportunities would not last long and much violence would be involved in who gets them.

Posted by: cc | March 29, 2006 4:58 PM | Report abuse


Lets not start the political party debate here. I would love to talk about it, but that is a can of worms left to its own thread. lets not hijack this one.

Chris: Can you open a topic for discussion of adding new political parties to the political arena.

Posted by: Dan | March 29, 2006 4:43 PM | Report abuse

...Go back and reapply back to come back into the US? That won't happen. Here's a scenario that is never taken into consideration:

Illegal Immigrant:

* arrived with student visa in 1980
*arrived on a 747, was inspected (as opposed to the sneaking under border tunnels)like every one suggests illegal immigrants do..
* completed undergrad AND masters degrees
* I grew up speaking english (actually, the "queens's english")
* Began "real" work in 1986 (err not as a farm worker), etc
* Unable to take advantage of 1988 Amnesty because I did not an "illigal" before 1982 as was required.
*Did not marry an American (like many of my friends did JUST to become "legal")
*Earn over 100K a year, Always paid taxes NEVER utilized piblic assistance...(wouldn't think of it)
Where is "home" after 25 years? I don't even remember what it was like in the "old" country.

Thats ok US born son son turns 21 in 2 years so MY nightmare is almost over with/without legislation.

Posted by: Kelly | March 29, 2006 4:41 PM | Report abuse

...raising the interesting question of when will Latinos form their own national political party.

I mean, at 20% and rising, it's just a matter of time.

Posted by: cc | March 29, 2006 4:33 PM | Report abuse

"I'm not in favor of changing the law to make it legal."

I put it to you, that given this administration and this Congress, when given the choice between acutally carrying out their responsibilities under current law in a competent manner, and, changing the law in a way that will work to their political advantage in many ways, their choice of action is clear.

Let me add one other thing to this discussion. Latinos tend to be Roman Catholic, almost exclusively. Second, there are only two land borders to the US, Canada and Mexico. Canadians can cross the border freely, Mexicans cannot. The reasons for this I spoke to, above: most applications for immigration from Canada are accepted, while most applications for immigration from Mexico are denied.

It is very cold in Canada, mostly, and very warm and sunny in Latin America.

We have a population explosion in South America which is spilling over into North America.

Republicans and Democrats both, in their short-sighted ways, look over the border and see....millions of potential new Democrats and Republicans.


if they just locked down the border...

they will have millions more, in 5 to 10 years.

Maybe even enough to make up for the post Baby Boomer population crisis.

So let's grant amnesty, set up a "temporary" worker program, and have 20 million more in 5 to 10 years.

Where does that put you and me?

And that, my friend, is why you and I are on one side of this issue...and our Congress is moving to the other.

Posted by: cc | March 29, 2006 4:31 PM | Report abuse

...note that people can come here illegally and then apply for asylum and still get it.

I have no problem with the aslyum seekers. They are actually following procedures.

I do not make the decisions, we have judges that review each case.

Much better than for those who sneak in and then just hide behind "personal privacy". I mean, these people are flat-out invading our country, taking up residence here. They are squatters.

Posted by: cc | March 29, 2006 4:19 PM | Report abuse

"Parts of the competing and complimentary House bills (passed in Feb and Dec of 2005) further restricts "legal immigration", ending the diversity visa lottery,"

...that's a side issue, many countries cannot take part in it because they have already emigrated so many people...I suppose the "pool of available candidates" has shrunk enough to make it politically-incorrect ;)

"makes it easier to reject legitimate asylum requests"

I'm not gonna touch that one. But how many asylum requests do we get each year?

"and make it more difficult for legal immigrants and guest workers to provide documentation from their home countries as proof of their identity."

I don't see that as a problem, as long as the restrictions make sense, yes?

Do you know how easy it is to prove that you are an American citizen?

"These are subtle yet deliberate means to restrict immigration of any kind and make life difficult for anyone not "naturalized" to try and seek opportunity to build a better life in America."

Whoa, Nellie!

a) restricting things is what the government is all about.

b) "making life difficult"?

I wonder if that is really worth comment...

sure, o.k.

how easy should we make it for someone who is "not naturalized", to "try and seek a better life in the US"?

Would you like it to be "easy", or maybe "real damm easy"?

How "hard" is it to fill out the proper paperwork, wait for it to be processed, and then take advantage of your new freedoms and abilities, as a legal immigrant?

First as a legal visa-holder, then a resident alien, then a US citizen?

If you say it is very hard then I will say that is why so many people sneak in or overstay their visas and just flat-out break the law.

Last but not least, this country does not exist for people to come here from abroad and seek opportunities for a better life. It is something that people *can* do, but there is a process, there are rules and a procedure for doing it.

Argue the rules and procedure with Congress.

Don't argue the *process*.

It is there for your protection and mine.

And those who violate or try to end-run around it are supposed to be ejected from the process, for that reason.

Posted by: cc | March 29, 2006 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm not in favor of changing the law to make it legal.

Posted by: Dan | March 29, 2006 4:07 PM | Report abuse

" also wonder whether the issue is regulating our caste of untouchables--manure movers, landscapers, low level contracting jobs, etc.--or is border control. They really are two different issues. We are terrible at both, but criminalizing soup kitchen servers solves neither problem"

No one is criminalizing anyone.

They criminalized themselves when they snuck in, or, overstayed their visa.

You look at a soup kitchen worker, if he is illegal, then he is being employed illegally, and his employer is breaking the law.

Not one person is talking about *making* this illegal.

Just recognizing the fact that it *is* illegal, and actually *enforcing* the *existing* law.

Or, changing the law to make it legal.

Posted by: cc | March 29, 2006 3:54 PM | Report abuse


You are correct, the USCIS is a bureau within the Department of Homeland Security.

Posted by: RMill | March 29, 2006 3:53 PM | Report abuse

There were 500,000 people in that surprisingly peaceful LA protest on Saturday.

How do you know who were legal citizens and who were not? It may very well be their country. And even so, how is that racist?

No, it is much easier to brand them "violent, runing in the street criminals" than to face the fact that they recognize the power of constitutionally allowed freedom of speech and have forced the United States Senate to re-think their approach on this issue.

Posted by: RMill | March 29, 2006 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to point out here that Bush & Congress rolled INS into DHS after 9/11, because of the very same issue.

Because they could not manage the people who were here on temporary visas.

I *believe* that US Customs and Immigration is also part of DHS, not to mention the US Border Patrol.

Someone might want to think about that, now and then.

Also the fact that deportation basically means taking people to the border and kicking them out.

They wait until dark and sneak right back in.

Posted by: cc | March 29, 2006 3:47 PM | Report abuse

"Question: What if anything should be done by congress on this issue?

Answer: Nothing. Except to ensure law enforcement/border patrol has the tools (Funding) necessary to enforce existing legislation.

Anyone have any different answers?"

I'd agree with a few, the enforcement situation is so "broken" that the idea to enforce the law is just an idea. Like...the Manhattan Project was when they came up with it.

Second, clearly something needs to be done to make it easier to get temporary workers into the country, legally...and securely. Increasing visa quotas is a start, but, applicants need a sponsor to apply for one. That takes time, money and paperwork, it is much easier to hire an illegal...

And, just as important, get them out of the country when their temporary "residence" has expired.

I do not know why they do not have a system in place now to require people with temporary visas to check in with Customs or DHS on their way to the plane, and, if they don't, issue a warrant for their arrest and deportation.

This would require, say, 250,000 more police officers and US marshals to carry out these warrants. And imagine the uproar in the Latino community.

Third, the idea that someone should be able to apply for citizenship just because they are here, that is going to have to be looked at, closely.

Amnesty in any form would make it legal for an illegal to apply for citizenship, and, stay here and work here, legally, while they go through the process. That would make them a resident alien, it is effectively the same thing as being a citizen.

We simply cannot reward people for breaking the law with American citizenship...with even the right to stay here and work.

That is a bridge we are either going to have to burn, or cross. It's that simple. And if we cross it, we are screwed.

Posted by: cc | March 29, 2006 3:40 PM | Report abuse

The racism is on the part of the illegal marchers. did you see the signs that said this was their country and they were going to take it back? Are we denying the level of crime in the illegal immigrant community? there are 4 million that are not working. There is no plan. I say let us give 11 million spots to the people who have waited to do it legally, and kick out the violent, running in the street criminals. They broke the law, got false documents. The ones waiting in Mexico to do it legally are the ones we want as fellow citizens.

Posted by: Karen | March 29, 2006 3:37 PM | Report abuse

"How does that work? I thought the availability of immigrant labor depressed American wages. If illegal immigrants are, in fact, working for less than would be the case if the same work were done by an American, then shouldn't that lower labor cost be reflected in the cost of the product? Isn't the effect of the cost of labor on the cost of products the reason business people want to employ immigrants?

Not quite following your reasoning here, but I'm open to explanation"

Simple economics.

continuous housing construction leads to an oversupply of housing (thus driving down housing prices) only when the rate of consumption does not exceed the rate of replenishment.

One can only build so many condos in Montgomery County, for so many people to live in. Who can afford to live there.

If you are selling 10,000 housing units a week and building 5,000, because there are growth caps in Mont. Co and Loudon and Fairfax, and the population is growing by, say, 6,000 housing units because of both legal and illegal immigrants drawn to the area, due to good work at low wages offered by employers willing to hire illegals to put up housing in the #1 growth market in the US, at a time when the only real economic growth is in the housing market [and the defense market], what do you expect?

There are only so many people that can live in any one area. People keep coming to live in that area, because they can find work there, and reasonably-affordable housing. Eventually the price of real estate in that area will go through the roof. It will go through the roof *faster* if just anyone can come there and get a job and live there.

Illegal immigrants are driving up the cost of housing in the US because they are coming here in droves and they need places to live, it's that simple.

Or, you can look at the cost/benefit relationship.

Hiring an illegal alien instead of a documented worker to do a job might save a company a dollar an hour per man, maybe two or three, in labor costs. It might save 10%, 15% in the labor costs of a construction job. How much of the cost is labor and how much is material and land cost?

Are labor costs keeping pace with land costs in the Washington DC area?
What about material costs, in an inflationary bubble, induced by rising fuel costs?

You figure it out.

Employers say they could not get legal people to do these jobs. I say, then they would not get the job done if they did not hire illegals. But, in many cases, if they did not hire illegals, the work would not need to be done in the first place. And certainly if they were to offer more in salary, they could find a legal person to do the job, to argue otherwise is foolish.

The business of hiring illegal aliens, and bringing them to this country in the first place, is big business, with big money involved. And it will mean a lot of votes.

And that is why you see all these plans for amnesty.

However amnesty will not fix the situation. It will only "reset" it. And we start the cycle again.

Posted by: cc | March 29, 2006 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Question: What if anything should be done by congress on this issue?

Answer: Nothing. Except to ensure law enforcement/border patrol has the tools (Funding) necessary to enforce existing legislation.

Anyone have any different answers?

Posted by: Dan | March 29, 2006 3:24 PM | Report abuse

My name was not posted on the above blank submission.

Posted by: RMill | March 29, 2006 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Are we talking about ending immigration?

Or...are we talking about dealing with *illegal* immigration?

Someone clue this guy in to the issue. Reminds me of the old question: "which comes first, the FISA court or the Constitution?"

Unfortunately, I am all too clued in.

Also convenient of you to skip the opening sentence of my post:

I have to say that I am somewhat disappointed that this topic "could" generate a renewed restriction on immigration.

The provisions of the House bill is what spurred my original post.

Parts of the competing and complimentary House bills (passed in Feb and Dec of 2005) further restricts "legal immigration", ending the diversity visa lottery, makes it easier to reject legitimate asylum requests and make it more difficult for legal immigrants and guest workers to provide documentation from their home countries as proof of their identity.

These are subtle yet deliberate means to restrict immigration of any kind and make life difficult for anyone not "naturalized" to try and seek opportunity to build a better life in America.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 29, 2006 3:18 PM | Report abuse

I'd start by enforcing the laws against employing illegal immigrants. . . .That right there would reverse the tide. . . . You'd not only catch the Americans who are taking advantage of the cheap labor, you'd catch the legal Latinos who are employing illegals, too.

And, you'd pretty much ensure that there'd be no fresh produce in your neighborhood grocery store except, perhaps, for what's grown outside our borders . . . with even cheaper labor.

Posted by: THS | March 29, 2006 3:16 PM | Report abuse

As a legal immigrant with a noticable accent I can say that even though I always volunteer documents showing that I am a legal immigrant authorized to work in the US, not a single employer has ever been interested in seeing these documents. The same for my father, also a legal immigrant. His current employer preffered to make a copy of his foreign-issued driver's lisence for their file rather than a copy of his Green Card. This tells me that no one ever enforces laws to make sure that only legally authorized people are employed. May be this is where we should start?

Posted by: Elle | March 29, 2006 3:09 PM | Report abuse

"Enforce the laws already on the books?" Now there's a novel concept.

But then the congressmen won't have anything to brag about in October/November.

Posted by: Dan | March 29, 2006 3:04 PM | Report abuse

". . .and enriched a few construction companies, to make a new life for themselves and in the process driving up the value of the very same American real-estate that they are illegally employed to build."

How does that work? I thought the availability of immigrant labor depressed American wages. If illegal immigrants are, in fact, working for less than would be the case if the same work were done by an American, then shouldn't that lower labor cost be reflected in the cost of the product? Isn't the effect of the cost of labor on the cost of products the reason business people want to employ immigrants?

Not quite following your reasoning here, but I'm open to explanation.

Posted by: THS | March 29, 2006 3:04 PM | Report abuse

...I'd start by enforcing the laws against employing illegal immigrants.

That right there would reverse the tide.

You'd not only catch the Americans who are taking advantage of the cheap labor, you'd catch the legal Latinos who are employing illegals, too.

And it would have to be more than just a fine, they will work off the fine. It would have to be licenses, at least, if not jail time. They will plea it down, to start, as it is.

Take the money away and make it so that they have to be legally employed just to survive, and you will see half of them just go home and stay home. anyone else seeing the real problem here?

Posted by: cc | March 29, 2006 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Some of the more comical sites you see around LA. Small SINGLE family homes with the front and back yard paved over for additional resident parking. Also three or four mail boxes nailed up next to the door. One thing you have to say about owning realestate is that they are not making anymore of it. A

Posted by: mark | March 29, 2006 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the lead in CC, Los Estadios Unidos.

Why do we need to provide Federal forms in any language other than "English". Yes, I know we don't have a national language. Yet another failure of Congress.

To Teacher:
Yes, "English" is a subjuct in school, but it does not really teach one how to speak. It is more appropriate to call it "Grammar" followed by calling it "Literature".

BTW - One of the requirements for becoming a naturalized citizen is the ability to speak "English".

People don't just have one dealbreaker in their mindset, but otherwise it's on spot.

Posted by: Dan | March 29, 2006 2:39 PM | Report abuse

" know about the illegal community and the number is not a "much smaller majority". Many who are here want to stay and they ARE working and living here and trying to establish roots. The vast majority do not wish to return to live in their country of origin, but would like the ability to work here legally, work toward citizenship (however long it takes), and be able to occasionally travel to and from their countries in order to visit family members they left knowing they might never see again (mothers, fathers, grandparents, even wives and children)"

...they came here knowing the risks, they are here knowing that they are breaking the law by being here and working, both; the reason that they are not leaving is because they do not want to take the effort and risk to leave and try to come back. However, in spite of this risk, many illegals have crossed the border several times, to go home and see their families. They *can* leave anytime they want. Many do not try because they do not wish to give up what they have gotten by coming here illegally, already. Their family members can apply to come here legally, or, sneak in like they did.

And they would never get citizenship under the current law. It is not a question of time. Time comes from the bureacracy...waiting times only apply to qualified applicants. They have already come here illegally, they simply would not qualify for citizenship. Once it became known that they were here already without going through the proper procedures to come here, without getting the legal documentation required for entry, once it became known that they circumvented US immigration control procedures to get in the country, their application for citizenship would be rejected and their case sent to DHS for prosecution. They would not qualify for a work visa...they would not even qualify for legal reentry. Of any sort. At all.

And they should not be here, under the current law.

What is the argument?

They got what they wanted when they came here, and now they are paying the price for the situation they have put themselves in.

You people act like these are just poor dumb Mexicans suffering a hard life who are just trying to get by and who shouldn't have to deal with these bureaucratic burdens.

That's not true.

They used to be poor dumb Mexicans, some of them, sure.

But they heard that for a few thousand dollars they could make a new life in Nortre Americano. From their friends Jose and Pedro and Luis, home to see their relatives, flush with American money. So they worked for a year and collected money from their family and paid a coyote $5k to sneak them across the US border, often many of them travelling weeks and many miles, crossing several countries...coming from Columbia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Panama, you name it, just to get to the US border in the first place. Maybe even from Mexico itself. Now they're crafty, cheating illegal immigrants who have gamed the system and taken advantage of our weaknesses and enriched a few construction companies, to make a new life for themselves and in the process driving up the value of the very same American real-estate that they are illegally employed to build. And they are now further taking advantage of the system to ensure that their friends and countrymen can continue to do the same thing. And get US citizenship to boot.

Don't be a moron.

Wake up and smell the coffee.

It's Columbian, fresh-brewed.

Posted by: cc | March 29, 2006 2:33 PM | Report abuse

CC: I respect your point of view--I don't agree with it but I respect it.

Posted by: Jason | March 29, 2006 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Jason says:

"Virginia, please try to respect all points of view--otherwise you are the one who ends up looking foolish. And by the way I am a white native Californian who respects all points of view. I wish others could do the same."

Nope. I don't respect the 'point of view' that a policy preference against illegal immigration is conclusive evidence of 'bigotry' or 'racism.' That 'point of view' is dismissive and offensive. I just don't respect it.

So there.

Posted by: Virginia Dare | March 29, 2006 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I loved the report yesterday about the $9-$14 hr hotel jobs going begging in Florida. It seems that after Katrina it was widely reported that $18 hr jobs in New Orleans were also going begging. We actually had an out flow of agricultural workers from California for these green pastures. It turned out that the jobs actually paid $5-$6 hr and you had to stay in waterlogged motels full of mold.

Posted by: mark | March 29, 2006 2:14 PM | Report abuse

"As far as ILLEGAL Aliens affecting our economy? If that were the case...then bring in 11-12 million LEGAL immigrants and let them do the same work."

See, that's the thing. It would cost lots of money and time to do that. A trip to the 7-11 is short, cheap and quick.

The issue, really, is to say, "we have 12 million people here working illegally, so, clearly there are oh say 1 million employers here who need workers so bad they are willing to violate the law and employ the illegal aliens huddling down the street".

And then use that to justify increasing the temporary worker visa quotas.

But THEN most of them would overstay their visas. Those that actually found a sponsoring employer while they remained in their homeland, filled out the forms, and waited, to get the proper visa and documentation to come here and work and live, legally.

Once they were here, you would never get them to leave, unless they wanted to go home to visit their relatives. Meanwhile their friends are sneaking across the border and working without worrying about paperwork.

You'd be right back at square 1.

There is too much money and too many votes riding on the amnesty train. Too many people here make too much money off illegals, and, there are too many votes from those who are sympathetic to them.

I mean, you put money and votes together, and what Congressman can resist?

Posted by: cc | March 29, 2006 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Jason, you wish that others would respect all points of view?

What about the point of view that white native Californians are navel-gazing idiots?

Respect that?

If not, please try.

Posted by: cc | March 29, 2006 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Virginia, please try to respect all points of view--otherwise you are the one who ends up looking foolish. And by the way I am a white native Californian who respects all points of view. I wish others could do the same.

Posted by: Jason | March 29, 2006 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Those of you who contend that being against illegal immigration is conclusive evidence of 'bigotry', 'racism', etc., need to realize that you do not in any way contribute to this debate.

Please don't post nonsense. It makes you look foolish.

Posted by: Virginia Dare | March 29, 2006 1:46 PM | Report abuse

...and worse, now it appears that they do not want to do that, because these Hispanics have relatives who can vote Republican.

And since even Schwarzenegger cannot guarantee California for the Republicans, and Florida was the linchpin of their success in the past two elections, how can they afford to take a chance?

And the liberals, of course they have to support amnesty...after all, these people have come so far and suffered so much, and worked so hard...

They are squatters.

And now we have the same problem that they have in South Africa, and Europe.

They are here now, and we do not have the willpower to make them leave, or, to control them. The only remaining option is for them to control us.

Welcome to Los Estadios Unidos.

Posted by: cc | March 29, 2006 1:24 PM | Report abuse

so little time...

"Chris, it seems to me that everytime Bush and the republicans are on the ropes, they dredge up a divisive issue guaranteed to roil the electorate and distract them from the issues that really do worry them the most. And, right on the tick, the mainstream media obliges.

If Bush were riding high in the polls, Iraq was an unqualified success and his tax and health care policies were popular with the American people, do you really think the immigration issue would be drowning out all other issues like it is this week?"

it's kind of hard to argue for supporting an extended, expensive, unnecessary war to secure the peace and liberty of the population of a foreign country when you can't even do that for your own citizens in their own country. Immigration is a double-problem for Bush and the Republicans because they are so gung-ho on keeping "terrorist insurgents" out of Iraq, yet they can't keep Hispanics from crossing the US border in waves.

Year after year.

And it is costing us real money and it is a growing problem. And has been for years.

years ago we granted amnesty to 3.2 million illegals.

Now, it will be to 11 million. Or, 12 million. We're not sure.

Posted by: cc | March 29, 2006 1:20 PM | Report abuse

...regarding the polls on the ILLEGAL immigration issue... it appears that those on the "pro"-ILLEGAL side, tend to cloud the debate by constantly using the term: "Undocumented," or referring simply to "Immigration" when speaking of "ILLEGAL" Aliens/immigration!
Those polls mentioned in your article, could be a result of that "deception." One way to settle the issue once and for all, would be to have a national referendum. Let's find out what Americans really think, from the emotional security of the voting booth!
As far as ILLEGAL Aliens affecting our economy? If that were the case...then bring in 11-12 million LEGAL immigrants and let them do the same work.
Once we started sending ILLEGAL aliens back to the country they came from, others would start heading back on their own.
This country of ours, did not become as great as we have, by everyone doing what ever the heck they want to. Our law enforcement, medical and government administrations are becoming overwhelmed! It may not be as noticable in some areas of the country, but...stay will be coming to a town near you, soon!

Posted by: Warren | March 29, 2006 1:14 PM | Report abuse

...and, of course, by engaging in a long-overdue "tightening up" the enforcement of existing immigration law, we're "bashing Latinos".

Another topic for another day.

Posted by: cc | March 29, 2006 1:13 PM | Report abuse

...let me just repeat that, briefly.

the reason we have so many illegal aliens here in this country, is that many more people want to come here than the US government wants to let in.

So, they got in.

They gamed the system.

Let's reward them by making them citizens?

If I robbed your bank, and, you could never find me but you knew that I was out there, spending your money and supporting businesses that had loans with your bank, would you open your vault to my friends if they threatened to take their business to another bank?

Posted by: cc | March 29, 2006 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Republicans always bash minority groups when they want to rouse their base. It's usually gays that the GOP Hate Machine attacks. Now it's convenient for them to attack Mexicans.

Same script. Different target.

Big tent my ass. :)

Posted by: Mike 234 | March 29, 2006 1:09 PM | Report abuse

If we let one group of people break the law why shouldn't we let everyone break the law?

Posted by: BP | March 29, 2006 1:01 PM | Report abuse

for the information of all involved:

The United States Government, through DHS, issues a certain number of visas to each country in the world, every year. For tourism and immigration.

Plus we have a green-card lottery every year.

We let an awful lot of people immigrate into this country, legally, every year.

You do have to go through a process, fill out some paperwork and submit forms, pay a fee, and, wait, though, for this to happen, and, there is a chance, a large chance, that you will not get a tourist or business visa, partially because you would not qualify for one (ie DHS would not accept you as an applicant) or because the quota for visas in the category in which you are applying, is full.

IE we've already let in hundreds of thousands of people from your country, in that category. This year. Alone.

And there are several countries in the world, roughly 27, with which we have a "visa exchange program" (I forget the exact title) but citizens of those countries do not need to apply for tourist visas to come here. Countries like England, Spain, France, Italy...Australia...these are all countries which have over a 90% acceptance rate for immigration visas. They can just get on a plane with their biometric passports and walk through US customs just like a US citizen, and stay as long as they wish. They cannot work here legally, but, they can apply for a H1 workers' visa just like anyone else.

The bottom line is that these people who are here illegally, are not here "illegally" because it is "convenient" for them to be here illegally.

They are here illegally because for the overwhelming majority of them (I would guess upwards of 95%), they would not have gotten a visa to stay here legally.


by overstaying their tourist or temporary business visas, they would NOT be granted another visa. They would never legally be allowed to come into this country (short of emigrating to a visa-exempt country, marrying a US citizen, getting a diplomatic posting, perhaps something like that, and there is no guarantee that they could get in, even then. Customs does check all passports regardless of country of origin).

Not to mention the ones who snuck into the country, illegally bypassing immigration checkpoints manned by US customs agents.

They are ALL immigration criminals.

Many of them were criminals in their own lands, before they even came here. Many of them traversed other countries illegally to come here. Many of them ship money home to their they pay taxes on this money in their native country?

So they are here and working to help others and paying taxes here possibly even the correct tax on their total earnings, and not causing any trouble.

So...they are making a career out of crime.

Those who are paying for their labor, are breaking the law, and making a career out of it.

Those who are helping them are aiding and abetting career criminals.

In any other situation if the US government found out about this, they would be arrested and possibly deported and banned from re-entering the US.

Your solution in this situation is to give them US citizenship and allow them to stay?

Not only is that totally contrary to the ideals of a law and order society, which the Republians pretend so well, to espouse, you would have millions of illegals either sneaking in or overstaying their visas.

You might as well just open the border.

It's that simple.

And, remember this: we don't need THESE people. We have millions of people who are trying to get into this country, who would be eager to come here and do the work that they are doing. But do it legally.

Either we enforce the EXISTING law, and they admit that the law should be obeyed, or, we admit that we cannot enforce the law, unless we change it to something that we maybe possibly can enforce...and they get to break the law and get away with it, get *rewarded* for breaking the law by our politicians, for votes (in the ultimate failure of the democratic system)

And if we change the law to one that is enforceable, what would that law be?

And when will that happen?

Posted by: common cents | March 29, 2006 1:01 PM | Report abuse

HN & Judi,

Sing me up as another positivist, in this case in political science. Like I said before, it is an area of major disagreement in the field, with "political scientists" running the full gambit from behavioral positives to realist marxists to interpretist post-modernists. I tend to believe that this is a productive debate, as the critiques that fly back and forth force scholars in each to evaluate and refine their beliefs. Positivists and rational choice scholars have benefited significantly from that criticism, moving from a very simple view of positivism to a more sophisticated positivism that acknowledges the trouble with individual objectivity and so forth. I will say that I think there are many reasons why both positivism and rational choice have come to dominate most social sciences (I don't include history in this case), even when qualitative methods are prominant - comparative politics, for example. They offer a more level playing field, and make it easier to evaluate one theory against another. This also helps lead to more clear policy decisions and real world applications. I actually think that the biggest problem in our policy making field comes not from positivism, but from scholars heavily influenced by Strauss, particularly the Neo-Cons. The rejection of empirical observation and at least the attempt to employ a scientific method has often led to disasterous conclusions. While your argument about getting to root causes in compelling, I'd argue that if polling and quantitative measurement only examine symptoms, then the same can be said for ALL observations. So really, you're merely arguing about methods of observation, not the nature of reality. While interesting, I think at that point the discussion is a matter of degree, rather than a real dichotomy.

On the subject of rational choice, it should be remembered that people do not have to be fully rational for it to be an effective way of analyzing decision-making. I also think that rational is a misunderstood word. Most people do have priorities, and make those decisions based on those priorities and their relative chance for success. That is pretty rational. The point though, is that rational actors do not necessarily lead to rational conclusions. Game theory has done a lot to illuminate that (group think, for one example), but computational modeling (agent-based models) is pushing the field even further, because now we can really generate evolutionary models, rather than *simply* complex mathematical ones. For modeling the complex systems that encompass most human interaction, this is a far preferable method to my mind. But like I said, I think having a variety of methods and even ontological and epistemological positions is beneficial, because they complement one another, and are mutually beneficial even when in opposition to each other.

Posted by: avhj | March 29, 2006 12:45 PM | Report abuse

just this one (example):

"The fact that this country was built by generations of immigrants and now we want to slam the doors shut just irks me"

Are we talking about ending immigration?

Or...are we talking about dealing with *illegal* immigration?

Someone clue this guy in to the issue. Reminds me of the old question: "which comes first, the FISA court or the Constitution?"

Posted by: common cents | March 29, 2006 12:40 PM | Report abuse

...I'm not going to comment on what anyone else has said...everyone has their own opinion, and, as American citizens, the right to express matter how stupid or illogical...

this is a simple case of the law being broken, egregiously, by millions of people, and the American government doing little if anything to control it or prevent it, for years.

Now we are like the Titanic, we have a hole in the side.

What do we do, play nice on the bridge as the ship sinks, or patch the hole and pump the water?

It's that simple.

What message would we be sending by granting amnesty to illegals? Or those who hire them, or help them to make it here?

Think about the billions of people outside the US who would come here if they could get a visa, who are applying for a visa, who are waiting months and years to come here, some of whom have relatives here legally.

All of these people have cheated that system, and, are breaking the law on a daily basis. Yes, obviously, we need some of them to work here [so change the visa quotas]. And yes, of course there is an humanitarian issue to be considered [so, they get a chance to air their case, in front of an immigration judge]. But they are all lawbreakers, and, in any other situation, which would weigh the most?

If you had a city full of coke dealers from Columbia, all here legally under US immigration law, what would you do, grant them amnesty or round them up and deport some and jail the others? We would, I hope, round them up, strip them of their citizenship and deport them. And we have done exactly that for years.

...this time we give them amnesty? Because they have a wife and kids here?

So, that means we ignore their criminal behavior, because they have relatives, and offspring that are here and *just may vote in November, for the other party*?

Again: think of the message that is being sent, by even DISCUSSING amnesty for these people, or giving those who support illegals what they want. Change the law, sure, there is a process for that. But those who have broken it, willingly, for years? They have written their own checks on our paper, and, we should cash them in good faith.

And if we do not, we will have a run on the bank.


one voice of many,

but at least I am here legally.


what chance would someone who does not speak, read or write English (and probably cannot even read or write in their native language) have of passing an "English" class at any educational level

Posted by: common cents | March 29, 2006 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Although it's not exactly reporting, there's been an extensive discussion of immigration on one of the WaPo blogs---the one called "The Debate," by Emily Messner. She provides lots of background re history, economics, legislation in her posts and in the things she links to, and there are hundreds of comments. Note that there's been more than a week of discussion on this topic in her blog.

Also interesting is Gene Robinson's column in yesterday's Post, as well as his comments in the subsequent webchat. He makes the very good point that America is not a static entity. It has always been a dynamic society as different groups have moved in. Prior to the Revolutionary War and for some time afterward, except for black slaves, there were mainly white people from Europe. No Asians, no Latin Americans, few people from Southern Europe. And all waves of immigration evoked some of the same concerns that we are seeing now, yet we survived and benefited from the contributions of all those folks. Just think where we'd be w/o Italian food!

I am not an expert on this topic, but I have heard from various sources that the general pattern of language learning is that, by the time a family has been in this country for three generations, they will not only be proficient speakers of English but the younger members will have forgotten how to speak whatever language they spoke before they came here.

My own family is a case in point: Grandparents spoke English well, but spoke Norwegian at home. Their older children spoke Norwegian until they went to school. My mother, their youngest child, only learned a bit of Norwegian, and nobody in my generation speaks it at all. We have some Scandinavian pastries at Christmas, and that's about it.

As to the "they won't assimilate" argument, it may be worth noting that my mother grew up in a community that was almost entirely Norwegian and German, that there were lots of Norwegian speakers around, including church services conducted in Norwegian. Still, the language went away. It will happen with Latino immigrants too.

And, really, if people learned to speak English as the younger people will, would it be so bad if they spoke Spanish too?

Posted by: THS | March 29, 2006 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I think just about everyone here has missed the reason this debate sparks such great public outcry and yet really appears really low in the polls as an important issue. Not every community across the country feels the direct impact of the massive influx of illegal immigrants into this country and consequently, I believe this skews the poll numbers downward.

I'm not going to argue with the fact that massive illegal immigration is bad for the security of this country; it is plain and simple. That, however, does not explain what is the driving force behind the anti-immigrant rhetoric being pushed by people such as Tom Tancredo. I have noticed that this debate engenders passions in areas of the country where people are very nervous and uncomfortable because of a perceived clash of cultures. This dark and brooding undercurrent that is again boiling up and rearing its ugly head (as it did during the Dubai Ports deal) is called nativism.

"America for American's first" is a common cry you hear amongst the anti-immigrant activists throughout this country. It's a demeaning ideal which is at worst driven by racism and at best demagogs this issue; setting neighbor against neighbor within our communities. The claim that it's not about bigotry or fear but about enforcing the laws of our nation is a smoke screen. That's exactly what it's about. As the old cliché goes, you can dress up a duck any way you want but it's still a duck. The same applies to the bigoted and nativistic anti-immigrant outcry that is currently sweeping through the more conservative voices in this debate.

Posted by: Robert In West Hollywood | March 29, 2006 12:26 PM | Report abuse

"TimT is right."

...except that TimT doesn't even bother to distinguish between illegal and legal immigrants. He also doesn't seem to know that many of us specifically become ESOL (ELL/ESL) teachers to teach immigrant students. Our students learn English in sheltered classes, so they're not 'bothering' the rest of your special needs kids.
The extension of his point is that English proficiency should become a prerequisite for education in America, which is preposterous considering one of the core subjects in schools is CALLED "English."

Posted by: Teacher | March 29, 2006 12:19 PM | Report abuse

TimT is right. On the whole, the mainstream media seems to view itself more in the role of advocates for the poor, hudled masses of illegal immigrants. Objective reporting is not common with respect to this subject.

Posted by: Virginia Dare | March 29, 2006 12:00 PM | Report abuse


"Anyone who wants to explain human culture and meaning, that is what we make of the world, AND is a positivist is truly a nut."

Sign me up! Qualitative research is great, but if the write-up of your interviews or observations includes the words "more," "often," "frequent," "seldom," or "never," you are doing quantification. It's just "soft" quantification.

To say you can't measure meaning, interpretation, motivation, influence, beliefs, attitudes, values and other such psychological constructs is, well, wrong. Psychologists have been doing it for ages, and they are pretty good at it.

I'm not necessarily banging the drum for the study of psychology (and note that I'm talking about the study of human behavior, generally, not clinical psychology), but among the social and behavioral sciences (i.e., sociology, anthropology, political science, psychology), I think it's fair to say that psychologists have done the most to develop systems of measurements for abstract concepts. Of course, I also have to say that I know more about that field than about the others.

Yours in Nerdville

Posted by: Judi | March 29, 2006 11:59 AM | Report abuse

The reason the immigration issue is not higher on the polls is because it is an issue that people care passionately about,and that they see impacting things like population growth/gridlock, loss of habitat, education, security, etc. But these issues are not being dealt with by the media (and until a few weeks ago) by most politicians.

Typically the print media coverage swings between articles on how tough it is for poor immigrants to doing pieces that imply that anyone who wants to seal the borders is a bigot.

So with a lack of balance and thoughtfulness in the national debate, the majority of Americans are feeling that their legitimate concerns are not being addressed.

The fact is that immigration is the driver for population growth. Yet no one in the media is asking if its a good thing for America to have 500 million people here in 50 years (at current growth levels).

Immigration is providing an almost endless supply of labor willing to work for minimum or less. But the media doesn't mention that without the huge influx of the last 20 years, the wages for poor Americans would have risen significantly based on supply and demand. That's why corporate America wants to keep things as they are.

The media doesn't mention that teachers can't properly teach our own kids with learning disabilities if they also have a high number of kids who have trouble speaking English.

These are issues that deserve an honest, healthy debate. But the print (and even TV) media has gnerally acted like one side in the debate is driven by bigotry. I'm a fairly middle of the road liberal myself, but I'm saddened by how one sided the media has been in its coverage.

Posted by: TimT | March 29, 2006 11:52 AM | Report abuse

To suggest an answer to Cillizza's question:

I think it boils down to two factors:

1. Many immmigration-related concerns (crowding, health care, the environment, etc.) are treated by pollsters as separate items from immigration, when in fact they are tied to immigration. For instance, if so and so many Americans say their # 1 concern is 'security,' there is obviously an immigration component to that.

2. The media has mostly ignored this issue until now, so it seems to have bubbled up from nowhere. The media's general ignorance and avoidance regarding immigration up to this point is understandable -- writing critically about it almost always leads to being called a 'racist.'

Posted by: Virginia Dare | March 29, 2006 11:52 AM | Report abuse


Good observation. You are absolutely right I am skeptical towards positivism, but as this is not an academic journal I didn't want to get farther into fancy words than I had to. So I left the P-word out.

But I'll say this: Anyone who wants to explain human culture and meaning, that is what we make of the world, AND is a positivist is truly a nut.

You can't equate History, Anthropology, Sociology with Physics, Maths, Economics (some leeway there) when it comes to measuring quantity. Meaning is not kilograms or decimals. You can certainly use social statistics to provide probability estimates of how someone votes, but that is about symptoms, not about explaining why it is so. My impression from the academic field (I am a PhD student in the history of political communication) is that political science lags e.g. anthropology, sociology and history when it comes to employing culture as an explanation. A lot of poli sci-people are still doing rational choice. That's nuts, but reflective of poll-mania.

Oh, and people should appreciate a good nerd session, don't excuse yourself.

Posted by: HN | March 29, 2006 11:19 AM | Report abuse

I have to say that I am somewhat disappointed that this topic could generate a renewed restriction on immigration.

The fact that this country was built by generations of immigrants and now we want to slam the doors shut just irks me.

Why would we blame anyone for wanting to be here? It is a testament to the success we have achieved as a nation.

Broader political implications of this topic are generated by the disatisfaction with the current state of the economy. This is what I believe that people primarily respond to.

It is also a sad commentary as to the state of our education system.

Immigrants and even illegal immigrants are generally employed. However, they compete with under-educated Americans, those who generally do not complete a high school education.

The best reform for immigration policy would be a committment to education and restoring a sustainable and growing economy.

When we were a young country, we had natural resources abound and capitalized on the industrial revolution. We still cling to this outmoded model. The nations of abundant natural resources are now in Africa and Asia. They should be the burgeoning industrial nations that will lift their own countries out of poverty. We should be focused on the next generation of advancement.

This transition is painful, as we have seen with NAFTA and CAFTA. And we have a responsibility to help the conversion be a smooth as possible for our own citizens. Why then do we cut programs that deal with worker re-training and education and focus on tax cuts instead of investments in future technology-based industries. The federal government has abandoned that task to the state and local governments.

Posted by: RMill | March 29, 2006 11:15 AM | Report abuse

list all the crimes illgal mexicans did in 2005 per city,what they got caught at,and how money they cost us in no pay for hospital bills

Posted by: Anonymous | March 29, 2006 11:14 AM | Report abuse

>>>Why is it on the table now?

Its on the table now b/c the Conservative base are concerned about losing jobs and they feel need to blame some ethnic minority (God forbid blaming Bush's economic policies). The neocons (Bush, Frist et al) saw it as an opportunity to attract the Latino vote by addressing an on-going problem... Things exploded when the House GOP passed a resolution (and the Senate was in discussions to do the same) that would make illegal aliens FELONS. Nice work Tancredo and friends, you've really got your finger on the pulse. :-\ Why anybody, other than a delusional white christian male, would vote Republican is beyond me.

Posted by: FairAndBalanced? | March 29, 2006 11:13 AM | Report abuse


thanks for helping with the orthography (at least that one has an 'h'!). I am not a native speaker.

I appreciate having this well-reasoned discussion in a normally nutty blogworld. Still, I think we will have to agree to disagree on the quantitative measurability of culture. I know your views are dominant in the world of political science, and to be honest and a litte blunt, I find it frustrating that so many brilliant people are stuck there. Some things are better understood, in my view, by qualitative interviewing, such as textual interpretation. That research, however, would have a hard time making money from the news media, as there is no scoreline to put in the headline. Or how about it for The Fix, Chris?

Also, let's say I accepted that cultural meaning can be quantified - do you think the researchers you refer to would let the objects of research do that analysis on themselves? That is what these polls are doing when they ask 'why'-questions. Would a psychologist ask his patient what his diagnosis should be?

I am honestly surprised that this is not more of an issue in political science and among serious journalists. I think it is because we all love polls so much the way they are. They provide clear answers and nice headline material, so who cares how we got there?

Posted by: HN | March 29, 2006 11:08 AM | Report abuse

"I agree that the idea that we are talking about brown-skinned people from poor countries has to be part of the mix."

I do not think this debate is fueled by racism. Indeed, some of the individuals posting the above comments, who are clearly against illegal immigration, are of African decent. The knee jerk reaction to put race into every debate is a common reaction among over-educated members of our society.

The issues in this debate are simple. The wages for low-skilled American jobs are deflated as a result of a massive influx of cheap illegal labor. The downward pressure on wages hurts regular Americans. This is a concept that most of the people who are framing this debate on television and in the press do not appreciate.

If our elected officials do not stop this influx, they are simply not doing their jobs to protect the interests of the majority of Americans.

Posted by: Don | March 29, 2006 10:59 AM | Report abuse


Your argument comes from an ontological and epistemological position of either realism or interpretism, both critiques or alternatives to the dominant positivist position. A positivist argues (in short) the world is real and can be measured. It sounds like you are saying it can't be measured. From an academic stand point, it is worth noting that while you say positivism is dominant because of the influence of political science, it is really only in political science that there is any debate. Economics, psychology, and certainly hard science have all fully embraced positivism, while political science still struggles. You critique is more specifically addressed to quantitative analysis - in this case, polling. The acuracy of polling is a matter of the quality of questions, representativeness of sampling, and soundness of the math & interpretation. You're right, it should be taken with a grain of salt, but especially when aggregated, poll results tend to be fairly accurate, and have significantly improved our understanding of how any why people make decisions. Many of the theories that were accepted before modern polling were either contradicted or enhanced by later empirical studies, and I would argue our political system is overall the better for it. Yes, it is irritating that every issue seems to come done to a poll, and certainly polls don't give you depth (that's what focus groups are for :-P) but they do provide base information which can be very useful in understanding how and why people vote.

Okay, nerd session is over. . .


Posted by: avhj | March 29, 2006 10:58 AM | Report abuse



Posted by: che | March 29, 2006 09:38 AM

Again, what does this have to do with the topic at hand? Is this the same guy as yesterday? At least this one is brief.

Posted by: RMill | March 29, 2006 10:48 AM | Report abuse

When does the issue of immigration actually affect the lives of most Americans?

The debate on this bill has included providing for a screening of "jobs that Americans won't do" that would be made available to immigrants.

Aren't these jobs already filled by immigrants for the most part? I believe that this will be a dangerous categorization and place a burden on employers to document.

Robert Reich was on NPR this morning and explained that this reform is really without merit until the laws on illegal immigration are actually fully enforced. Employers who already employ illegal immigrants do not care whether these jobs may be suitable for Americans. They care that they can get cheap labor without paying for health care and other benefits. This will not change under the current bill.

Geography has a part to play as well. Immigrants are not the most mobile population. They are drawn to areas where these jobs and willing accomplice employers aggregate.

As far as the disparity in polling of issues, when the full basket of issues is presented, voters will gravitate to high profile issues or those that have a direct impact on their lives.

Do they care that illegal immigration takes place. Yes. Would they like to see it stopped? Yes. Does it affect their day-to-day lives? Not really.

Race is also a factor. People tend not to respond forcefully to polls based upon this issue however, as they do not, even in the annonymity of a poll, want to appear that they have discriminatory views. Are we worried about the influx of illegal Canadians crossing over into Minnesota and Wisconsin? No, mainly because it does not happen with the frequency. Also, Canada has a stable economy and employed labor force. They have a comparable standard of living to the US while Mexico does not.

It is also a matter of focus in asking the question during the poll.

Where does it rank in importance compared to everything else going on in your life. The response and intensity is diluted. Okay, now focus just on this question, responses and intensity change.

Like taking a test, asked ahead of time what is important for the test, you get a variety of responses. But focus attention on the one question on the test you did not study for and the intensity level at that moment rises well beyond the earlier response.

The passion here is focused in the supporting immigrant communities, and generally in the states where it is prevalent and by the media, usually inflamatory conservative commentators.

Ultimately, this issue is generating media buzz but not sinking into the American consciousness as a indicator issue for the midterms. It may have far reaching impacts, as stated above, in the latino vote in certain states and may have implication in 2008.

Posted by: RMill | March 29, 2006 10:47 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: PEGGY DONOVAN | March 29, 2006 10:44 AM | Report abuse

To HN:

It's ontological. :-)

More seriously, I think you underestimate what can be measured. Psychologists, including cross-cultural psychologists, have been working for, oh, nearly a hundred years to figure out how to measure things that we think and feel but can't always see or touch . . . including culture. There are lots of ways to characterize culture, attitudes, perceptions, all that mooshy stuff. No one measure will be perfect, but, over time and with multiple measures, reasonable pictures of these "soft" aspects of reality can be understood.

I can't do justice to the subject here, but it's worth following up.

Posted by: Judi | March 29, 2006 10:41 AM | Report abuse

This dispute over immigration has been an issue for years. Why is it front and center now? Who is driving this? It is a no win situation for the Republicans and the Democrats. Why is it on the table now?

Posted by: Merry | March 29, 2006 10:39 AM | Report abuse

I'm 100% with Washingtonian. My father and I are both LEGAL immigrants and we both had to jump through a lot of hoops to get here, including going through a thorough medical exam, and signing paperwork saying that we will not apply for ANY public assisantce benefits. Yes, that's right, anyone coming to the US legally must sign paperwork obligating them to never apply to any public assistance benefits. Yet illegal immigrants receive these benefits freely! My father came to the US in spring of 05, yet he only recently was able to find a job paying a lot less than $14/hour. He is willing to do any kind of work -- cleaning, landscaping, construction (he is a skilled construction worker), and he has a college degree, yet all those jobs are taken by illegal immigrants who don't pay taxes, expect Americans to learn THEIR language, and use our public benefits. How outrageous!

Posted by: Elle | March 29, 2006 10:37 AM | Report abuse

To revmac: I agree that the idea that we are talking about brown-skinned people from poor countries has to be part of the mix. Most people (including us, probably) don't really know the facts about, for instance, how much illegal immigration costs the US compared to how much the labor of illegal immigrants contribute to the GDP. But we all have opinions about how desirable immigration is or isn't.

In his chat yesterday, Chris wrote, "I think immigration could well be a major issue in the 2006 midterm elections especially if Congress is unable to do anything to allay peoples' concerns about the national security risks posed by porous borders."

I thought he was being way too generous, because I think the concerns of many people are based on ideas about how many of "them" are coming in and what that will mean for the kind of country it is. Eugene Robinson had a good piece on this in yesterday's paper, and there was an interesting discussion that dealt with these issues in his afternoon chat.

Posted by: THS | March 29, 2006 10:35 AM | Report abuse

While everyone natters on about Bush and the Republicans no one bothers to condemn a derilict and slothful Congress. The American people are victimized by a dearth of programs for healthcare, education, the environment, the infrastructure, domestic policy in general and a disastrous foreign policy that has drawn international emnity. Bush's entire administration has been an unmitigated disaster, and the do-nothing incompetence continues, both in the Congress and in the Executive Branch. Bush and the US Congress are on the threshold of granting amnesty to 12-million illegal aliens. Permit these felons to go unpunished and they will be followed by millions more. Why not? Our Congress is so apathetic. As Senator Feinstein said yesterday: "There are too many permutations" for us to cover in comprehensive legislation. So lets not do anything at all. Let them all in. A few collegial posters talk about a deal breakiing issue that will determine their vote in November. For me the top priority is to punish Bush and the Republicans for the irremedial damage they have done to this country over the past six years, and from the precinct to the presidency, vote a straight Democratic ticket.

Posted by: Big Dave | March 29, 2006 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Rob Millette said; That is exactly what I'm looking for, now get some damn illegal immigrant out of the way and give ME that job.

What is stopping you from applying? I think jobs of this sort have pretty high turnover rates. I wouldn't think it would be hard to find an opening. And, if you have graduated from high school and speak English, I'd think you'd be a pretty desirable employee.

Posted by: Judi | March 29, 2006 10:27 AM | Report abuse


thanks for your comments. I agree that the pollsters adhere to professional standards and do their work according to honest criteria. I do not agree that people who are wrong make less money, especially if their theoretical basis is not challenged and proven shaky. They make money because we all know that polls ARE right about that which can be measured, such as 'Will you vote for McCain or Clinton?', or a yes-no as 'Will you ever vote for someone who is pro-choice?'. That is different from asking why it is so, i.e. 'how important' something is.

My argument is more academical, or onthological (?) in fancytalk, than a discussion over polling competence. My point is that I doubt that quantitative science can measure something as elusive as culture, especially by getting your objects of research to perform that cultural measurement on themselves. And it is culture that feeds meaning to the issues, they are mere expressions of that.


Posted by: HN | March 29, 2006 10:23 AM | Report abuse

I'm interested that in scanning the above posts, the issue of racism hasn't reared its head. Beyond doubt the issues bound up in immigration policy are more complex than simple prejudice. However, real immigration reform will require and honest "gut-check": would we be as concerned if the wave of immigrants, legal or otherwise, was coming from the northern border? I don't have the answer, but I think it's a question worth posing.

Posted by: revmac | March 29, 2006 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I saw TV yesterday, hotel job pays $9 to $14 an hour, would you go and apply for it? Anyone if your family wants to do the landscaping for $11 an hour? That is very good compare to minimum wage

That is exactly what I'm looking for, now get some damn illegal immigrant out of the way and give ME that job. I know hundreads of people who would stop working their minimum wage jobs at BK or McDonalds to go for these jobs.

Posted by: Rob Millette | March 29, 2006 10:20 AM | Report abuse


The discussion of what makes people vote the way they do suggests that it would be interesting for you to write a piece that draws on some of the research in psychology that discusses this issue. I do think that there's a lot that has to do with attraction, a sense of the person, a gut feeling, etc. that goes into voting decisions. Most people are much less familiar with the details of political issues and where candidates stand on them than one might think reading this or other WaPo blogs. Decisions are impressionistic, rather than the result of a logical weighing of pros and cons.

I know that you are more a numbers junkie than a behavioral researcher, but you might start by talking with Rich Morin, who, as you probably have seen, has been doing studies of how people form impressions of candidates based on facial features. He would be able to direct you to other people who do this kind of work, and I would probably be able to do that too. If you're intrested, leave a note here, and I'll give you a little advice about where to look.

Posted by: THS | March 29, 2006 10:13 AM | Report abuse

I wonder what part Lou Dobbs does play in this. He has become a one note singer of the "Immigration Problem" song. I realize he doesn't have the largest audience in the universe, but surely his continuous harping on the issue has had some effect.

I also wonder whether the issue is regulating our caste of untouchables--manure movers, landscapers, low level contracting jobs, etc.--or is border control. They really are two different issues. We are terrible at both, but criminalizing soup kitchen servers solves neither problem.

Posted by: Richard Pincus | March 29, 2006 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I second Nick's observation re where illegal immigrants are employed. Think restaurants, dry cleaners, cleaning crews, landscaping, low-skilled construction work, hauling, restaurant work. It's small companies, not IBM or Xerox, that are hiring people to do this work. (Although it may be Hormel and Oscar Meyer.)

Posted by: Judi | March 29, 2006 10:06 AM | Report abuse

The disparity in the poll numbers for the immigration issue is because most Americans have deeply conflicted values at play in this issue. On one hand we see ourselves as a nation of immigrants and we want to welcome everyone, but we are also a nation of law and order and these immigrants broke the law so they need to be punished. How do we maintain a self image of a law abiding country that is true to our open door roots? This is question we must answer.

As for the low ranking on the national issues list this is because most people don’t think this issue affects there day to day lives. This is a values issue and a messy one at that. While this could be a driving issue in November it will always take a backseat to pocket book issue and Iraq. If those issues are quite in November this could be the main issue.

Posted by: Brent Parrish | March 29, 2006 10:02 AM | Report abuse


You may very well be right that people vote based on a "gut feeling," but there is no reason people can't be asked (in polls) what their gut feelings are.

They may not be able to explain them, but they can still say what they are.

Polling is really a very well-developed field. Of course it can be done badly, and we have to look carefully at the methods to make sure they are satisfactory and at the questions (especially because, when comparing results, we want to make sure we are comparing apples to apples), but I think you can be reasonably certain that the professional polls that Chris is citing were well done. The samples reflect the relevant populationsl; the questions were tested; the data analyses are appropriate. In these situations, the pollsters are in business to make money, and nobody makes money by being wrong.

Posted by: Judi | March 29, 2006 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Those same companies have convinced us that legal US citizens won't work at those same jobs. ????

Julie, I don't think is the big companies hires illegals, in fact they are small companies. I saw TV yesterday, hotel job pays $9 to $14 an hour, would you go and apply for it? Anyone if your family wants to do the landscaping for $11 an hour? That is very good compare to minimum wage

Posted by: Nick | March 29, 2006 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I am a first generation immigrant whose parents immigrated from Africa LEGALLY in the early 70's. My mother tells me how she use to walk to the US Embassy everyday and wait in line for hours to get her student visa to come here, and it took several years. She is now a citizen and would never be seen protesting/marching anything with an Ethiopian flag. How dare they demand rights that are afforded to US Citizens and have the audacity to carry foreign flags. It is a slap in the face to all of those people who have followed the rules to come here properly to let these people just stay here and legalize them. They need to go back to Mexico and march/demand that their corrupt government do a better job for their people. We can not feed, house, educate, medicate and employ all of the needy people in the world. I mean come on, we are outsourcing high tech and low wage jobs to SA and Asia. Then we let these illegals come in and drive down the wages for the bottom tier jobs here. What are low skilled Americans suppose to do. Not to mention all the costs associated with illegals ie. heathcare/schooling/law enforcement. Also, we should not let the Democrats get off easy on this issue. They are going to try let the Republicans fight it out, but every member of Congress should be on the RECORD about where they stand on this issue. The Republicans want cheap labor for big business and the Democrats want new voters and union members. In any case it is not good for regular Americans. And I am tired of hearing about what work Americans won't do, pay a decent rate and people will work. Let your Reps in Congress know how you feel, they might be able to assemble big street demostrations, but most of them can't or don't vote.

"Lou Dobbs for President"

Posted by: Washiongtonian | March 29, 2006 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Chris, it seems to me that everytime Bush and the republicans are on the ropes, they dredge up a divisive issue guaranteed to roil the electorate and distract them from the issues that really do worry them the most. And, right on the tick, the mainstream media obliges.

If Bush were riding high in the polls, Iraq was an unqualified success and his tax and health care policies were popular with the American people, do you really think the immigration issue would be drowning out all other issues like it is this week?

Consider what has happened just this week: An explosive secret memo detailing conversations between Bush and Blair that touched on assassination and subterfuge to provoke a war with Iraq was reported on in the NYT. Increasing sectarian violence in Iraq prompted more talk about civil war. And, a new poll released yesterday indicated that despite Bush's efforts to mollify the electorate, his poll numbers continued to decline. Add to that, more muffled hints from the blogosphere that indictments of Karl Rove and Steven Hadley may be in the works, while in the Congress a hearing was convened with FISA judges being questioned who made no bones about the fact that they think this President is abusing executive power with his warrantless wiretap policies.

Little wonder that Bush and the republican Congress are desperate to gin up controversy on some divisive issue designed specfically to get the electorate all riled up and distracted from what is clearly an administration that is imploding.

Posted by: Jaxas | March 29, 2006 9:51 AM | Report abuse



Posted by: che | March 29, 2006 9:38 AM | Report abuse

I think the confusion around these polls stems from unfortunate influence from the academic field of political science. There is a strong, resilient assumption that political beliefs can be measured by numbers, which is made worse by the assumptions that we can all use those numbers to put the right diagnosis on ourselves. If you ask someone why they vote the way they do, and receive the correct answer, electoral campaigns would be sheer mechanical battles, right? Obviously they are not. That would preclude regional, ethnical differences.

It's the culture, stupid! Or un-academically: The gut. And neither of us can really draw up our value systems to fit a poll format, not to speak of making clear what is about religion, what is about law and order, what is about charity, what is about state intervention.

These are the matters painting the big picture and deciding votes, but you can't (hopefully) get a pollster to ask:
-"So, from 1 to 10, how would you classify the different factors making up political culture in your state?
-And on the same scale, how much does it affect your political reasoning?"

We need less polls and more analysis.

Posted by: HN | March 29, 2006 9:29 AM | Report abuse

"...someone needs to really think through what happens to folks who have actually been contributing members of society long enough to establish roots, like families etc. I believe those folk to be a much smaller majority of the illegals."

I know about the illegal community and the number is not a "much smaller majority". Many who are here want to stay and they ARE working and living here and trying to establish roots. The vast majority do not wish to return to live in their country of origin, but would like the ability to work here legally, work toward citizenship (however long it takes), and be able to occasionally travel to and from their countries in order to visit family members they left knowing they might never see again (mothers, fathers, grandparents, even wives and children).

Posted by: Anonymous | March 29, 2006 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, MQ. I have to agree with Andy R. "[M]ost voters are rational and consider a true basket of issues"? Really? And what country are you writing in from? Fantasyland?

Posted by: BR | March 29, 2006 9:14 AM | Report abuse

My understanding is that there are currently laws "on the books" that would go a long way to enforce current immigration laws, were "we" to actually do so. For example, it is illegal for companies/corporations to hire illegal immigrants. Those same companys have convinced us that legal US citizens won't work at those same jobs. So... my theory is: first enforce, start prosecuting those large companies who hire illegals. Perhaps that might discourage future illegal immigration, and even send "home" some of the 11 million (or what ever number there actually are) home. Then lets see if we can't actually put US citizens to work at those jobs. Corporate America doesn't want this to happen, because then they would have to pay at least minimum wage, and this would cut into their profits. Obviously we would also have to do something about deporting those who are caught, and someone needs to really think through what happens to folks who have actually been contributing members of society long enough to establish roots, like families etc. I believe those folk to be a much smaller majority of the illegals.

Posted by: Julie | March 29, 2006 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Andy R,

Your theory is probably wildly inaccurate. I'm confident that a minority of citizens and a very small minority of actual voters follow a single-dealbreaker mentality. Rather, most voters are rational and consider a true basket of issues.

Posted by: MQ | March 29, 2006 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Nice post by Andy R. (third post of this string). Concur fully.

Posted by: Gaithersburg, MD | March 29, 2006 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Chris, I have a theory about this and anyone who wants to chime in feel free. Basically my theory is that every person in this country has ONE issue that is a deal-breaker issue for them. These issues are never something complex like national security, or the economy because of the complexity involved in those debates. The DB issue is always something precise, such as Abortion (pro-choice or pro-life), gun control (Pro, or anti), death-penalty (for or against), stem-cell research (for or against), gay marriage etc... Now obviously there are grey areas in each of these debates but not that much. So when people look at thier candidates the first question is what are their views on MY deal-breaker issue then they move on from there to the more complex issues.
I will use myself as an example. I am firmly pro-choice, and I will not vote for anyone who isn't pro-choice. However, I live in the People's Republic of Cambridge Mass so everyone who runs here is pro-choice. So I look at more complicated issues to determine who I vote for. I have friends who are avid hunters who will only vote for people who are strictly pro-gun and so on.
BUT, when people are asked what is the most important issue facing the nation it always one of the more complex ideas, because in our mind the deal-breaker issue is already decided.

Posted by: Andy R | March 29, 2006 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Chris, your wording and "analysis" clearly (to me) illuminates the reasons why the GOP has just lost the Latino vote. Thanks! November, here we come.

Posted by: FairAndBalanced? | March 29, 2006 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Our immigration policy resembles the ineffective war on drugs. For decades we’ve spent billions of dollars on interdiction and law enforcement yet trafficking only increases. Similarly, the federal government continues to increase spending on border patrol and enforcement to no avail. I think we can all agree we haven’t gotten our money’s worth. In spite of our efforts, 11 million illegal immigrants currently live underneath our radar. Both the human and economic dimensions of this issue are complex. A new immigration policy that combines compassion with rational innovation is in order. Sadly, our political class appears incapable of rising above the passions, fears, and even greed of their respective constituencies.

Read, "Our Immigration Conundrum", in the *Intrepid Liberal Journal*.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal Journal | March 29, 2006 8:23 AM | Report abuse

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