Thursday, February 19, 2009

Napolitano's Hard Echo of Liberal Immigration Strategy

(Following is an excerpt of news analysis from CIP America's Program. Read entire analysis.)

 Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano shows few signs of reining in the immigrant crackdown launched by her predecessor Michael Chertoff. She recently called for "more boots on the ground" along the border and touted her determination to promote the "rule of law" in immigration enforcement.

 The "rule of law" framing of immigration policy copies the language of the Bush administration and the agenda of the immigration restrictionists. The apparent continuity between the enforcement agenda of Chertoff and Napolitano alarms advocates of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR).

 But Napolitano's tough talk on immigration enforcement reflects key components of the new messaging of the leading CIR advocates in Washington. As the immigration debate has shifted to the right, liberal groups like the National Immigration Forum, America's Voice, Center for American Progress, NDN, and National Council of La Raza have also been calling for an immigration reform that "secures the border" and "restores the rule of law."

 As a strategy to build center-right support for comprehensive immigration reform, including legalization, the Washington, DC-based liberal immigration lobby has advocated that the Democratic Party and all immigrant-rights advocates adopt a "rule of law" framework that includes more border security and employment verification while placing the onus on immigrants themselves to "get right with the law."

 The concept behind this strategic maneuvering is that Americans will support a legalization provision for illegal immigrants if the proposal is couched in tough "rule of law" language. In other words, by moving to the right immigration advocates would be better positioned to advance a liberal immigration reform. Thus far, however, this pro-immigration strategy of talking tough to advance CIR has fallen flat.

The Bush administration used the "rule of law" position on immigration to rationalize the immigrant crackdown. The Obama administration to date has shown few signs of backing away from the Bush administration's enforcement-first regimen. The "rule of law" logic of border control and immigration enforcement continues to dominate the immigration debate in America. In a Feb. 16 interview with NPR, Napolitano signaled her intention to embrace that agenda.
"First of all, the rule of law applies on the border, and we want to make sure that that happens, No. 1. That means manpower. That means technology—things like ground sensors. It means interior enforcement against those who intentionally are going into the illegal labor market and creating a demand for illegal laborers, so that's all going to continue. How we do that may change with me as a new secretary, but we want to make sure the rule of law is applied, and it's applied fairly and forcefully across the border."
Like Chertoff, who frequently explained the Bush administration's "enforcement-first" regime as an effort to "restore integrity" to immigration law and border control and thereby create a foundation for immigration reform, Napolitano sees enforcement and border control as laying the groundwork for immigration reform.

No comments: