- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 20, 2006

Conservatives in Congress say that Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean’s new get-tough stance on illegal immigration shows how important the border-security issue could be in this year’s elections.

Mr. Dean’s advocacy of “tough border control” this week — at an event at which the DNC chief outlined his party’s November election strategy — shows clearly that Mr. Dean has seen polls showing that Americans are fed up with the federal government’s failure to secure the nation’s borders, said Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican.

“It’s another indication of just how stupid the Republican Party is when they say we better not go after immigration as an issue, we better not go after border security as an issue,” said Mr. Tancredo, a longtime advocate of immigration reform.

Mr. Dean apparently hopes to make an issue out of immigration this fall, Mr. Tancredo said. Other Republican conservatives also saw Mr. Dean’s remarks as an election-year ploy.

“Sounds like Democrats have been reading the polls, at least when it comes to border security,” Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, said yesterday. “But they are on the wrong side of the American people when they support amnesty, which giving illegal immigrants citizenship certainly is.”

Both the White House and key Republican Senate leaders have expressed support for a guest-worker plan for illegal aliens, but some House Republicans have condemned the proposal as tantamount to amnesty.

Conservatives on Capitol Hill were skeptical of Mr. Dean’s surprising shift toward support for stricter enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws.

“It’s kind of like Barry Bonds lecturing the rest of the world about steroid use,” said Rep. Jack Kingston, Georgia Republican. “With Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid leading the Democrats, we haven’t been able to get anything done on immigration reform.”

At a press breakfast this week, Mr. Dean described a policy position that appears to be significantly different from the one pursued by Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill.

“The first thing we want is tough border control,” Mr. Dean told reporters Wednesday. “We have to do a much better job on our borders than George Bush has done. And then we can go to the policy disagreements about how to get it done.”

The stance that Mr. Dean took this week has been flatly rejected by Democratic lawmakers such as Mr. Reid of Nevada, the minority leader in the Senate, and Mrs. Pelosi of California, the minority leader in the House. The only way the Democratic leaders will support a border-security bill, they say, is if it is twinned with a guest-worker program and gives illegal aliens already in the U.S. a direct path to citizenship.

Last year, Mrs. Pelosi led the majority of her caucus in opposing a border-security bill in the House, which passed with support from just 36 Democrats.

Earlier this month, Mr. Reid led Senate Democrats in voting against a border-security bill. He and many other Democrats supported two earlier measures, however, that included the guest-worker and citizenship provisions for illegals.

In his remarks this week, Mr. Dean said Democrats “vigorously” support a direct path to citizenship for illegal aliens while also saying that his party opposes guest-worker programs.

At least one House Republican yesterday wondered aloud whether the get-tough rhetoric from Mr. Dean was another temperamental outburst like the former Vermont governor’s screaming performance after losing the 2004 Iowa Democratic primary.

“It’s election-year politics, and Mr. Dean is reading the same polls everybody is,” Mr. Kingston said. “Does this mean that Democrats are going to change course on immigration, or is Howard just being Howard again?”

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