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The elephant in the room

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POSTED: January 17, 2008 5:02 a.m.
During the recent CNN-sponsored Youtube debate, Republican candidates gamely responded to questions from supporters of Bill Richardson, Log Cabin Republicans, and the ubiquitous audience plant from the Clinton camp.
Despite CNN’s assurance that questions and questioners would be carefully screened, the questioners were hardly representative of the Republican audience. As a result, the debate was largely a waste of time. The base was unable to give voice to many of their concerns, and the candidates resorted to attacking one another.
However, one issue proved to be the exception to the rule: immigration.
Though long ignored by the majority of representatives and senators, the subject of illegal immigration was debated frequently and at length by Romney and Giuliani, the two candidates who currently lead the Republican field.
Mitt and Rudy spent most of the night attacking one another, and they spent most of their ammunition on their respective records on immigration.
While neither candidate has been a particularly strong advocate for the enforcement of immigration laws, the debate does indicate that on a certain level, politicians are beginning to listen to the public. All recent polls indicate that while Iraq’s relative importance in the public eye is beginning to decline, immigration ranks as one of the public’s chief concerns.
Unfortunately, as long as the federal government refuses to enforce our immigration laws, the responsibility for enforcement of immigration laws will continue to fall on the shoulders of state and local governments.
On that score, North Carolina’s record is pretty dismal. The state government insists on giving aid and comfort to illegal immigrants, and Gov. Mike Easley’s administration appears to be actively searching for new and inventive ways to aid and abet illegal immigrants. Easley began by issuing drivers licenses to illegals; now his administration is offering them a college education (on the taxpayer’s dime, of course).
Despite the fact that more than 80 percent of North Carolinians opposed this wrong-headed policy in 2005 (the first time Easley attempted to enact it), the governor insisted that it would not cost the taxpayers money to enroll and educate illegal immigrants at state-funded community colleges.
While Republicans such as state Senator Neil Hunt have offered amendments, Democrats in the assembly have continued to thwart all efforts to uphold the current laws. Hunt’s situation is especially troubling; an amendment to prevent state funding of illegal enrollment and education is proposed, and after unanimous support in the Senate, eviscerated by a Democratic committee in a closed-door meeting.
While Republican legislators may be fighting valiantly, they are losing.
As long as Democrats control the legislature and the governor’s mansion, Republicans are at an extreme disadvantage whenever they lock horns with their opponents on the other side of the aisle.
Fortunately, political victory doesn’t require a majority of seats in the assembly; North Carolinians are overwhelmingly against paying to enroll illegal immigrants in state schools.
Now is the time for our elected representatives to take a page from Reagan’s playbook; when Reagan wanted to cut taxes but lacked the seats in the House and Senate to pull it off, he went around the legislature and made his appeal directly to the people. Reagan asked citizens to write and call their congressmen and senators and communicate their support for cutting taxes; when the time came for a vote, Reagan’s tax cuts passed both chambers and were signed into law.
The same principle can be applied here. When partisan wrangling ceases to be effective, it’s time to tap the grassroots. Citizens who are represented by legislators who are soft on immigration need to pressure their representatives to abandon Easley’s “quasi-amnesty” schemes.
When public discontent on an issue is this high, there are only two options; get behind it, or be trampled. Easley and amnesty supporters, be warned; the name of the elephant in the room is immigration, ignoring it won’t make it go away.
 

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