October 24, 2007

Some days it just pays to be a Democrat, and this is one of them. Senate Republicans just denied cloture to a bill that would enable the children of illegal immigrants to become citizens if they complete two years of military service or attend college for two years. Seems like an easy call, what with the "War on Terror" and all that, to let people who are putting themselves on the line to fight and die for the U.S. of A. (or, for that matter, staying in school to get an education) to become citizens. At least, I haven't heard anyone claim recently that this country has too many smart and courageous men and women.

Well, apparently in the GOP, and among the more conservative blogs, courage and education are vices of the lowest order. It's hard to imagine what they gain from the obstruction. On the scale of public outrage towards illegal immigrants, non-citizens who are nevertheless volunteering to fight in Iraq would be rather down on the list. Since there is a five-year residency requirement, the class of people eligible under this law encompasses immigrants who were taken over the border by their parents (who do not receive citizenship under the measure), and for which more draconian measures would have little effect.

If anything, these should be exactly the sort of immigrants America wants: hard-working people with families, willing to defy convention and authority (like any real American) to come to the promised land, with children committed to defending and improving our great nation. To put it another way, what sort of person is more likely to benefit our nation: someone who sits on their ass and waits years for a favor to be granted, or someone who seizes their opportunity? I think the answer is obvious. America has always valued the ambitious, whether it's a Greek or Italian worker docking at Ellis Island in 1900, the Filipino couple using a "work visa" so that their daughter could be born on these shores in 1970, or the Mexican day laborer crossing the Colorado River today.

And that's why this issue has proven to be such a bomb as a wedge issue for the GOP. The people who are most angered by the "illegals" are bigots and nativists who are already in their camp. The rest of the country just sees human beings working to improve their lot. And when it comes right down to it, the Republican caucus in the Senate simply revealed the hard, mean face of modern conservatism this afternoon.

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