Thursday, April 13, 2006

The same man said all of the following things. Can you guess who it was?

• “Our borders have overflowed with illegal immigrants placing tremendous burdens on our criminal justice system, schools and social programs.”

• “Our federal wallet is stretched to the limit by illegal aliens getting welfare, food stamps, medical care and other benefits, often without paying taxes.”

• “Safeguards like welfare and free medical care are in place to boost Americans in need of short-term assistance. These programs were not meant to entice freeloaders and scam artists from around the world.”

• “Even worse, Americans have seen heinous crimes committed by individuals who are here illegally.”

Who said all these things? Pat Buchanan? Bill O’Reilly? Lou Dobbs?

Not even close. These statements were all made by Sen. Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, the current Senate Minority Leader who is fighting fiercely to protect illegal immigrants from the restrictions proposed by Republican bills in Congress.

Mr. Reid said all those other things in 1993. There was no congressional or presidential election that year, and it was not the Republicans who were trying to pass an immigration bill. Mr. Reid had introduced his own immigration bill.

In short, the immigration bill is not just about immigration. It is about politics — and the stakes are high. Under such conditions, it is not unusual for a politician to rise above principles.

Immigration represents a golden political opportunity for the Democrats to regain power. It is an ideal issue for the Democrats because it unites them and divides the Republicans.

The Republican majority in Congress is split between supporters of President Bush’s “guest worker” proposal and those who are serious about controlling our borders and upholding our laws. Meanwhile, the Democrats are united for legalizing illegality.

Under these conditions, the chances Congress will solve the nation’s problem, rather than the politicians’ problem, seem slight — unless the voting public’s anger is expressed so clearly and so massively it outweighs the political intimidation of the pro-illegal immigrant marches.

If the Republicans wimp out, that could so demoralize their base that Republican turnout in the fall elections could decline to where Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives.

With California’s ultra-liberal Rep. Nancy Pelosi as the new speaker of the House, Democrats would be in hog heaven. All spending bills must originate in the House of Representatives, so even the wild Republican spending of the past few years could be escalated to new heights with Democrats in the majority.

Impeachment charges also originate in the House, so Democrats could deal the Republicans another blow by impeaching Mr. Bush. It doesn’t matter that he would never be convicted in the Senate; the Republicans would still be put on the defensive and bogged down politically.

Even if a bill of impeachment did not get a majority vote in the House of Representatives, it would get major media coverage, which would accomplish the same purpose of damaging the Republicans before the 2008 presidential elections.

In short, the Democrats’ goal is not immigration reform but recapturing the White House in 2008. This is clearly demonstrated by how Senate Mr. Reid has gone all-out in opposing the kinds of immigration crackdowns that he himself advocated back in 1993, when the political situation was different.

It is all a political charade. At the heart of it is a package deal that will allow Washington politicians to be on both sides of the issue — in favor of the appearance of border control while making it easier than ever for existing illegal aliens to stay and get citizenship, and allowing more people to cross our borders for their own benefit, rather than ours.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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