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The anti-immigrant crisis
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To paraphrase Ricky Ricardo, Republicans got a lot of ‘splanin’ to do.
Why do all the Republican candidates, with the exception of John McCain, continue to use immigration as a wedge issue?
Sure, they all claim the problem is illegal immigration (I can’t tell you how many e-mails I get from readers who ask me, “What part of illegal don’t you understand?”). But sometimes these candidates go off in a direction that has nothing to do with illegal immigration.
For instance, Tom Tancredo has sponsored legislation to make English the official U.S. language and to impose a moratorium on immigration to the United States. Now, you might agree with the Colorado congressman that Americans need an official language, or that no more foreigners should be allowed to immigrate. But please do not tell me that what worries Tancredo is illegal immigration.
Tancredo (who is so disturbed by the sound of foreign languages that he brags his immigrant grandfather banned Italian at home) is far out on the fringe. But other Republican candidates have placed themselves on the same slippery slope.
Says the announcer in a new Mitt Romney ad running in New Hampshire and Iowa, “He said no to driver’s licenses for illegals, no to in-state tuition, fought for English in the classroom.”
Romney’s first two nos are, yes, directly related to illegal immigration. But that fight “for English in the classroom” — what does it have to do with illegal immigration?
The answer: nothing. But Romney, no dummy, understands that having too many Hispanics around — never mind immigration status — makes the Republican base anxious. And so, even if he says in another ad that “legal immigration is great,” his strategy has been to denounce illegal immigration, then slip in a coded something that exploits fears of Hispanics, whether citizen, legal resident or illegal immigrant.
(At least Romney’s campaign has a Spanish-language Web site, the only one among the Republicans. Hit it and his son Craig greets you with a paean to Dad, in quite impressive Spanish.)
Rudy Giuliani is another who doesn’t want the base to regard him as immigrant-friendly. But once upon a time he was indeed immigrant-friendly, and realistic about illegal immigration.
“There are times when undocumented immigrants must have a substantial degree of protection,” he said in a 1996 speech.
“For example, parents fearful of having their family deported may very well not send their children to public schools ... similarly, illegal and undocumented immigrants should be able to seek medical help without the threat of being reported. ... And everyone should understand the practicality of wanting undocumented immigrants to feel comfortable reporting criminals to the police.”
In another speech that same year, Giuliani said, “I believe the anti-immigration movement in America is one of our most serious public problems.”
What Republican will agree?

Hernandez is a syndicated columnist and writer-in-residence at New Jersey Institute of Technology.
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