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April 20, 2006, 3:40 P.M.

Immigration Nation: According to the most current U.S. Census data, there are 298,551,771 citizens in this country (as of 4/19/06). Reports have suggested that there are as many as 11 million non-U.S. citizens living and working illegally in this country. Recent census data from Mexico suggests that at least 2 million of those people may be "missing" and within the borders of our southern states.

Immigration policy, border protection and the impacts of those concerns on the political, economic and emotional landscape in the U.S. are nothing new. What is interesting in the current discussion, however, is the amount of attention being lavished on Hispanic members of our population by politicians of both parties. This is particularly interesting because of statistical data that suggests that only 6% of registered Hispanic voters voted in the last election. Apparently, both Democrats and Republicans are hopeful that this number can be increased and, further, that they can woo the Hispanic vote through their handling of what is seen as today’s immigration crisis. In this approach, they may well find that this country’s lack of an effective policy for immigration is as much a function of the issue being historically ignored as it is a function of the ability to break the issue down along party and philosophical lines.

A massive wave of German and Irish immigrants in the 1850s prompted the formation of political parties (the Know Nothing party, for example) whose sole aim was to block the admission of the European "papists" into our American society. Scratching just below the surface, it became apparent that the cultural and religious differences of those new immigrants was only one small facet of the greater resistance to the acceptance of those new immigrants into American society. There were of course economic concerns: the new workers would take jobs from American citizens in large numbers and they were willing to work for less money and under more extreme conditions than their American cousins; and they represented a potential voting block which could cause a major power shift within the country. These issues presented in the debate over immigration policy in 1855 are no different than the issues that we are currently addressing today.

There are some who resist the admission of immigrants into this country because they are different, some see them as a threat, either economically or politically, and others feel that while the American dream should be accessible to all members of our society, there should be some orderly process to ensure that our economy and that our social and political systems are not overwhelmed.

The problem of immigration and, in the current environment of fear, border security, is a tar baby with no easy solution. Border control, immigration policy and the question of American citizenship are issues that need to be resolved. The problem is massive, and my only concern is that, in focusing on this problem that is not new and has been a constant political question since this country was formed, immigration should not overwhelm other issues that I see as more pressing for our society. Immigration has many faces. The most public, the most media-friendly face of the immigration issue, is certainly the immigration of Central and South American workers who perform a vast amount of the agricultural, manual, construction and domestic labor across the country. These workers were once concentrated and focused in the southwestern portion of our country, but the migration is now complete so that their presence is felt all across the continent.

It seems obvious that our current immigration policy is broken. It is unreasonable that a person with a legitimate reason to come to this country, with a desire to become an American citizen and who possesses the requisite desire and motivation to contribute to our society, should be denied an opportunity for citizenship that has been available to so many who came before. Something is wrong with the system if it is easier, more efficient and more desirable for people to enter this country across our borders illegally than it is to go through the process set out in American law. If it is truly so frustrating that millions of individuals are unable to avail themselves to access to U.S. citizenship, then the law needs to be changed. If the fact is that these people coming into our country have no desire to be citizens, have no desire to give back to our society, or to participate in our society in some way or another, then in my opinion they are undeserving. Citizenship should not just be about the advantages. It should also be about the responsibilities. Those responsibilities include civic participation, voting, community activism, sponsorship of education and economic participation in society. If someone is unwilling to give in order to get, then the privilege of citizenship should be denied. On the other hand, where the sacrifice is made, where the intention is right and the desire is true, citizenship should not unreasonably be withheld.

It bothers me to hear our government talk about a guest worker program, where jobs would be performed by non-citizens because of the "unwillingness" of Americans to perform those jobs. I think we truly become a society in decline when we no longer value manual labor or the efforts of those who perform tasks that we may deem menial. Here in Laconia, we have a wonderfully diverse immigrant community that consists of hardworking and dedicated individuals. I find that in many cases that these individuals possess the work ethic that defines and built this country, while I find it lacking in many of their American counterparts. If we are truly to be in competition with immigrant laborers or guest workers, then it will be incumbent upon Americans to rise to the challenge. I remember a time when many of the supposedly menial tasks, which our government indicates that we now need guest workers to perform, were performed by college students, high school students and folks simply looking to earn an honest living.

The final conundrum presented in the immigration debate centers around the question of border security. It is unconscionable for our government to suggest that, in the time since 9/11, with the billions of dollars spent on defense (and government spending rising to an all-time monthly high this past March), we are any safer or any closer to having secure borders in this country. Security and safety promised to us by the Bush administration in the wake of 9/11 is a myth. The administration has only begun to focus on the immigration and border control issues in a real and meaningful way because it has become a political opportunity and their current rhetoric amounts to nothing but strip-mining for Hispanic votes. The debate is also drawing attention away from the consquences of the invasion of Iraq.

While the questions of immigration control, border security and demographic changes in the U.S. population are nothing new, neither is the tendency to politicize these questions without proposing any real, meaningful solutions. It has become evident, however, that border security is the first step in this process. If dirty bombs can be smuggled easily across our borders, none of us are safe – legal or illegal, the inhabitants of this great country are at risk.

April 20, 2006, 3:35 P.M.

Kickin' It Up a Notch: The arrogance of the Bush administration never ceases to amaze me. Just when I think they’ve reached the height of arrogance, they seem able to take it up another notch.

It is now evident from Scooter Libby’s testimony that Libby was told by Dick Cheney that President Bush had authorized the release of certain intelligence information intended to contradict and thereby undermine the assertions of Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his report on the alleged efforts of Saddam Hussein’s government to purchase yellowcake in Niger.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has had extensive and ongoing posts regarding the Niger forgeries, the Italian connection, and the use of those documents to substantiate Bush’s allegations regarding Iraqi nuclear weapons program used as one of the justifications for invading Iraq. It is abundantly clear that the documents used to substantiate the claims of Iraqi attempts to purchase yellowcake were forged, and that they held little credibility within the intelligence community. Bush’s authorization of the release of classified intelligence information was purely political, and it was aimed directly at discrediting Wilson. It is not a far leap to suspect that similar authorization was given for the release of Valerie Plame’s identity and her status as a covert CIA operative.

All of this information is viewed by the administration as "inconvenient." They therefore wish for us to move on and leave these sleeping dogs lie. The problem is that these actions lie at the very core of corruption and deceit which form the foundation of the current Republican administration. Regardless of the gravity of the individual activities, and the subsequent twisted legal, ethical and moral justifications, the government has outright lied at every turn regarding these situations. President Bush, in response to the allegations that Valerie Plame had been outed by someone in the Bush administration for political purposes, claimed that anyone involved in this leaking process would be fired. He later refined that claim to say that anyone involved in "illegal" leaks would be fired. His most recent assertions have been that no one needs to be fired because no one has been "convicted" in the ongoing scandal. It now appears that there are fingers pointed toward Bush on the issue of leaks of classified information and possibly even Plame’s identity.

The Bush response in both these leak cases and in the wiretapping situation has been to claim that the President has the inherent power and authority to "declassify" information, seemingly without consequence. It also seems that he has the inherent power to ignore the Constitution when it suits his political purposes and to at other times use it as a justification for other activities.

I guess I don’t really find these actions surprising anymore. What I really find surprising is that these people enjoy any popular support across this country and that they have not been removed from office.

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