Category: immigration reform

Rubio decides he isn’t Latino after all

Apparently not

By Alan Bean

The sad story of Marco Rubio explains why we won’t be seeing comprehensive immigration reform anytime soon.

Like Ted Cruz, Rubio is the child of Cuban immigrants who became American citizens without having to stand in line for day, let alone a decade.  As refugees from the hated Castro regime, Cubans receive special treatment at the border and it shows in their politics.

The rising prominence of men like Cruz and Rubio is often taken as a sign that the Republican Party is sensitive to the needs and aspiration of the Latino population.  But Cubans, as recipients of special favors rooted in Cold War politics, can’t feel the pain of the larger Latino community.

Consider this.  In the last presidential election, only 44% of Cuban Americans supported Barack Obama, only 44% supported Obama, compared to 76% of Central Americans, 79% of South Americans, 78% of Mexican Americans, 83% of Puerto Ricans, and fully 96% of Dominican Americans.  In other words, the Cuban vote went for Mitt Romney while the rest of the diverse Latino community voted decisively for Barack Obama.

These ugly facts place men like Marco Rubio in a tight place.  The man has presidential aspirations and it is increasingly clear that you can’t ascend to the top job without at least the 44% Latino support George W. Bush worked so hard to get.  Had Bush received 30% Latino support, he would have been beaten by two relatively weak Democratic challengers.

On the other hand, to win the Republican nomination you have to survive the primary season, and that means appealing to the Tea Party base.

Which explains why Marco Rubio, after helping draft a Senate bill that balanced tough border enforcement with a pathway to citizenship, is now endorsing the go-slow, piecemeal approach to reform favored by House Republicans.  Even the deeply flawed Senate bill was too much for Tea Party loyalists because it would eventually mean more Latino voters.

In theory, the Republican Party could take its cue from George W. Bush, winning Latino support by backing sensible immigration reform.  It’s just a matter of signalling to Latinos that they are welcome in the country and in the Republican Party.

But the Tea Party can’t go there.  A movement built on white racial resentment (the cash value of small government conservatism) doesn’t want more non-white people entering the country.

What part of “illegal” do liberals like George W. Bush not understand?

Marco Rubio knows he can’t change this simple fact of American political life, and has adapted his politics accordingly.

Latinos, per se, are not welcome in a Republican Party controlled by the Tea Party.  Rubio had to decide between being Latino and being Cuban, and he made his choice.  The Tea Party loves Cubans, but despises Latinos.

This probably means that comprehensive immigration reform will have to wait until the Republicans suffer another defeat in the presidential election of 2016.  Latino support for the Democratic candidate, no matter who it is, will be even stronger than it was in 2012.  When a political party signals its’ contempt for a large portion of the electorate it must live with the consequences.

If your ambition is to hang on to a Senate seat in the American South, opposing immigration reform makes sense.  If the goal is the win the White House it’s quite another matter.  The Republicans have effectively opted to be a regional party dedicated to the care and feeding of the White electorate.  That’s a winning combination in places like Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, but for the party of Lincoln, it is a long-term disaster in the making.

Congressman rebuked by evangelical attorney for shameful town hall performance

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Kent McKeever

By Alan Bean

I met Kent McKeever several months ago when I spoke at a worship service highlighting the need for immigration reform held at Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas.  Kent had just arrived in Waco to work as an immigration attorney in cooperation with Jimmy Dorrell’s Mission Waco.  I knew immediately that Kent was one of those rare individuals Jesus had in mind when he said, “Blessed are the pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8).

A few weeks ago, law professor Mark Osler celebrated McKeever’s selfless odyssey  in a Waco Tribune column:

A Baylor grad, he had gone on to get a degree from Princeton Theological Seminary before entering Vanderbilt’s top-flight law school. His credentials could have opened the door to many high-paying jobs, the kind of work (and pay) that students dream of. But his hope was for something very different. He wanted to return to Waco and provide legal services to the poor.

I saw Kent again last week at the Christian Community Development (CCDA) conference in New Orleans.  He has been cooperating with a variety of evangelical groups working for immigration reform, most recently a diverse group calling itself Bibles, Badges and Business.  The Waco Tribune has published an illuminating conversation between the Tribune editorial staff and this group, and McKeever was part of the discussion.   (more…)

Five ways the Senate’s immigration bill falls short of justice

By Alan Bean

As comprehensive immigration reform wends its tortuous way through the legislative process, we have witnessed a lot of hand-wringing from politicians concerning “border security,” spiking welfare costs, crime, and fairness to those who became citizens the legal way.  Rarely do we hear from the men and women who work with immigrants and advocate on their behalf.  ICA, Immigrant Communities in Action, is a New York-based coalition of immigration reform groups.  Today, they released a response to Senate Bill 744.  They don’t like it.  I am sharing the heart of their statement with you because it captures an emerging consensus within the immigration reform community.  Some organizations worked so hard for so long to get a bill through the Senate that they are willing to hold their noses and live with a deeply flawed piece of legislation.  But most of the reform organizations I monitor are deeply disappointed with the Senate’s immigration bill and this statement explains why.


Statement on the Senate Immigration Bill (S.B. 744)                                                    July 10, 2013

Immigrant Communities in Action

New York City


“A Call to Immigrant Organizations, Workers Centers, and Allies:

Building for a Just, Humane and Inclusive Immigration Reform, and Beyond


On June 27, 2013, the Senate voted to pass its immigration bill with a bipartisan vote of 68 to 32. While the bill includes provisions that seem to benefit some segments of immigrant communities, we are disturbed by the many provisions that undermine the basic premise of a just, humane and inclusive “comprehensive” immigration reform:

1. S.B. 744 creates an onerous labyrinth of a gauntlet instead of a just a path to citizenship.  While the bill seeks to offer a path to citizenship, and allow the millions of immigrants to come out of the shadows and become a recognized part of the social fabric, the specific provisions place many “thorns on the road” by making the process overly complex, financially unaffordable for many, and with an excessively long waiting period of 10-20 years. As these provisions would exclude millions of immigrants, either from the outset or due to the various obstacles, we will continue to have a large population of immigrants who would become even more marginalized and excluded than the current situation. (more…)

Is border security an “ungodly stupid” get-rich scheme?

An By Alan Bean

We face two unsettling truths.  1. The immigration reform legislation passed by the Senate is essentially a make-work project for the military-industrial complex.  2. The Senate bill is unacceptable to the conservatives who control the House of Representatives because it includes a path to citizenship.

Cram both those facts into your head and you will understand why a spit-the-difference moderate like Barack Obama can’t move his legislative agenda.

Immigration reform advocates face an ugly Catch-22.   If we say no to a fruitless militarization of the border, are we ensuring that no immigration legislation will pass?

There are two strategic responses to this dilemma.  Either we shame Congress into passing a reform package free of additional pork for the private prison and military industries; or we make our peace with bizarre new levels of border militarization (with all the misery that entails) as the price for getting some kind of reform bill to the president’s desk.

Conservative senators were willing to sign off on reform because they want to win the next presidential election and their buddies in the defense industry need a new war.  House conservatives, desperate to placate the base, are willing to cede the White House to the Democrats.  How can a reform agenda survive this kind of political opportunism?

If you question the wisdom of pouring billions of dollars into enhanced “border security” please read Joshua Holland’s article in Salon.

An “ungodly stupid” get-rich scheme: The real border security story

With two wars ending, the “defense” industry sets its sights on its next chance to hit pay dirt: The U.S. border

SATURDAY, JUL 6, 2013 02:15 PM CDT


Last week, John McCain gleefully announced that the Senate immigration bill would result in the “most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall.” Indeed, an amendment authored by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., authorizes a massive increase in border security dollars — including $30 billion for hiring and training 19,000 new border patrol officers over the next 10 years, and over $13 billion for a “comprehensive Southern border strategy” (including 700 miles of high-tech fencing).

What the senators didn’t tout was that the wall is both functionally useless – and will enrich some of the largest military contractors in the world. (more…)

How NOT to build a progressive coalition in Texas

By Alan Bean

Scott Henson thinks direct action is rarely a strategic tactic, but every once in a while it works.  Scott acknowledges that the tactic was highly successful during the civil rights movement but argues that the authorities quickly learned to avoid brutal and public acts of oppression.   Demonstrations may be therapeutic for those involved, he says, but they rarely accomplish strategic ends.

Occupy Wall Street is offered as Exhibit A.

I am temperamentally inclined to endorse Scott’s position.  Demonstrations have always made me uncomfortable.  When I participate it is usually because, as in Jena, the folks on the receiving end of injustice sometimes take strength from public displays of shared resolve.  The Occupy Wall Street folks brought needed attention to the growing wealth disparity in our country and its baleful influence on the political process, but when I talked to them I got the uneasy feeling that they were engaged in a form of therapeutic ritual with little strategic content.

Liberals must understand that, in states like Texas, we hold a minority position on almost every issue.  I don’t feel good about the fact that, if the GOP abortion law is passed, only women in the Golden Triangle between Dallas, Austin and Houston would have access to safe abortions.  But most folks in Texas are solidly pro-life and a lot of progressives, myself included, aren’t going to the wall for abortion rights.  I accept the logic of Roe v. Wade, but am too morally conflicted by the issue to get fired up about it.

I was proud of Wendy Davis’s bold filibuster.  But I wish we could get African Americans, Latinos and progressive whites in states like Texas to join hands on issues like hunger, mass incarceration, public education and immigration reform.  Abortion may be a defining issue for white liberal women, but you can’t build a broad-based coalition on pro-choice politics–not in the great state of Texas.  I would drive to Austin to protest mass incarceration, border militarization, and cuts to poverty programs and public education; but if abortion is the issue, I’m staying home and so will the vast majority of African Americans and Latinos.

The gerrymandering of electoral issues in Texas has been used to defeat outspoken progressives like Wendy Davis, but the redrawing of political maps is really about making white political hegemony endure as long as possible before it is washed away by the shifting demographic tides.  (See Wade Goodwyn’s excellent analysis of Texas politics.) Democrats will start winning elections in Texas long before the party is popular with the white electorate.  Smart progressives will understand this and start building a coalition that engages the passions of black and brown Texans.

Southern Republicans will adjust their position on immigration and public education when they need a respectable harvest of minority votes to win.  That day will come, but its a long way off.  It may be hard to win the presidency without minority support, but Southern elections at the national and state levels can still be won with white votes.  Leading with abortion is a bad way to win moderate white support and a sure-fire recipe for alienating Latinos and African Americans.

United Methodists refuse to endorse Senate’s immigration bill

By Alan Bean

Reaction to the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate has been mixed.  The Evangelical Immigration Table has heralded the legislation for striking an appropriate balance between national security and compassion.

But the bill’s provisions calling for a massive buildup of immigration forces at the border caused the Detention Watch Network to conclude that “The private-prison industry and other enforcement industry contractors stand to gain the most from the legislation while families and communities will suffer.”

The Centrist National Immigration Forum focused on the defeat of a series of “poison pill” amendments that would have rendered the bill unacceptable to progressive senators.  Since this bill was the best outcome we could get from this Congress, they argue, it is a good bill.

Bill Mefford, speaking for the United Methodists’ General Board of Church and Society, has refused to either endorse of oppose the legislation.  Noting that none of the progressive provisions of the bill will go into effect until immigration officials can document a secure border, Mefford lays out a depressing scenario: (more…)

Love thy stranger as thyself: the evangelical coalition driving immigration reform

By Alan Bean

This is good stuff!  In a NYT op-ed, UNC history professor Molly Worthen draws attention to one of the primary forces driving the immigration debate in America–the counter-intuitive coalition between white and Latino evangelicals.

It is easy to regard this fragile network with skepticism.  When over 70% of Latino voters pulled the lever for the blue team, savvy Republicans knew they had to edit their immigration talking points.

True, but it goes deeper than that.

Worthen argues that Latino evangelicals don’t share the libertarian, small government leanings of their white counterparts.  Moreover, a large and influential cohort of educated young white evangelicals is embracing aspects of the old social gospel with its focus on social or systemic sin.  This is not a cosmetic shift from the old evangelicalism, Worthen insists; it represents a fundamental shift in theological focus:

For a Christian, the question of whether an undocumented immigrant is a criminal or a victim trapped in an unjust system depends on how one thinks about sin and human responsibility . . . There are signs that evangelicals’ softening on immigration reform reflects a changing theology of sin and Christian obligation: a growing appreciation of how unjust social and legal institutions and the brutality of global capitalism trap the world’s tired, poor, huddled masses. This may be particularly true of younger evangelicals who are disillusioned with their parents’ Christian right. (more…)