Understanding the despicable actions of political leaders who use children to fan the flames of fear and ignorant bigotry to win an election.
As Americans, it has to be embarrassing to witness our so-called leaders – Republicans and Democrats – stooping to use eight-, nine- and 10-year old children as political pawns to score points in an election campaign. Illegal immigration is a serious challenge for this country, but it is not an insoluble problem. The only reason the conundrum of illegal immigration has not been resolved is because neither the Republican nor Democratic leaders want to solve it. Both parties see illegal immigration as a cheap, yet valuable political issue that can be used to stimulate and appeal to their “base” and win elections.
The Republicans are sacrificing tens of thousands of young children who have illegally immigrated to the U.S. on the altar of political expediency because they are rapidly losing out on the issues that have motivated their “base” in past elections. The Republican base of support is mostly comprised of Tea Party-type individuals who tend to be white, poorly educated, intolerant of change and bigoted toward anyone not like them. These predispositions make them susceptible to immigration fear-mongering tactics that the Republicans are happy to exploit each election cycle.
The Way Things Were
In the past, Republicans could rely on traditional issues such as the “call to war,” the “war on drugs,” the immorality of the “right to choose” and the “sanctity of marriage” to mobilize and motivate their base of voters. These were surefire issues to touch the hearts and minds of their constituents.
But now even the Tea Party-types are tiring of war, legalized marijuana is spreading through the states faster than it can be grown, the battle over abortion is on the back burner and the right to same-sex marriage is virtually universal. In short, the value of these issues as a partisan rallying call has nearly evaporated. Is it any wonder, then, that the Republicans are so fixated on the illegal immigration problem—not to solve the issue, but to have something to rail against?
In fairness, there are a large number of Republican leaders who are uncomfortable – even embarrassed – by their party’s hypocrisy over the illegal immigration issue; especially making young children the focal point of the debate. However, every time someone such as House Speaker John Boehner or Sen. Marco Rubio – both hardcore conservative Republicans – even hints at proposing a rational solution to the immigration problem, they are accosted by self-serving idiots such as Sara Palin and Sen. Ted Cruz and others, who see prolonging the illegal immigrant debate as their ticket to more media coverage and votes.
The Democrats are just as duplicitous as the Republicans. Rather than proposing immigration reform that is sufficiently balanced to win bipartisan support, they propose solutions that are sure to be rejected. Then they use this “irresponsible rejection” to appeal to their base in elections.
And no wonder. That Democratic Party base tends to be a compilation of ethnic minorities, socially liberal younger people and those who generally believe the government is the solution, not the problem. To appeal to their base, the Democrats attempt to “box-in” the Republicans by making them appear to be insensitive and uncaring when it comes to the humanitarian side of any social issue, such as thousands of young illegal immigrants penned up in cages.
There are some who see the intent of the actions taken by Democrats as a deceitful effort to actually exacerbate the immigration issue, so that it can be used as an appeal to their base in elections. During the 2012 presidential election, President Obama took executive action by declaring the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This declaration basically granted children under the age of 15 (about 1.7 million) who were illegally brought to America by their parents (also illegal) to remain in the country. The actual impact of the Obama announcement was minor. It certainly did not solve the problem, but it was clearly intended to appeal to the base of the Democratic Party during the election. The Republicans are now claiming, with some justification, that the DACA policy has been misused to encourage parents to send unaccompanied children to America and this is creating the current crisis. Despite the reality and narrow application of DACA, the Republicans contend that it is seen as a form of “immunity” offered to any child who can brave perilous freight cars, blazing hot deserts, and polluted rivers to reach our borders.
Send “em Back where They Belong?
The Republicans are clamoring for Obama to begin the immediate deportation – despite current law that requires certain process and procedure for deportation – of these innocent children back to an uncertain and possibly dangerous existence. Such an outcome is of little concern to the Republican base – indeed they may favor it – but for others, it makes the Republican Party seem cold, insensitive and uncaring; just what the Democrats want.
As further evidence of the “games” being played, when Obama came to Congress requesting the funds necessary to expedite the deportation of the children, the Republicans opposed the request. Of course, Obama structured the request for funds in such a way that he knew it would guarantee that the Republicans would respond as they did.
And Speaking of Deportation . . .
Just how confusing can the positions taken by Republicans and Democrats on deportation be? Well, the Obama administration deported more illegal immigrants in 2013 – 360,000 –than the George Bush administration did in eight years. And yet the Republicans are widely viewed as the “throw them out” party and the Democrats are the “let them stay” party. (One reason the Republicans are less aggressive in deportation is because they recognize the negative impact the deportation of undocumented immigrant workers would have on the economy and business profits. These illegals are a source of cheap labor and profits for corporations.)
A Lousy Management Philosophy
The Republicans use fear of the impact of illegal immigrants as a tool to garner votes from their base. But fear is the weapon of last resort used by weak, unimaginative leaders. Using fear as a leadership technique is a debasement of leadership itself. Fear confuses an issue; it does not clarify. Fear narrows the vision of those affected and that inhibits solutions based on broader approaches. Wordsworth wrote, “What is fear but voices empty? Whispering harm where harm is not. And deluding the unwary, till the fatal bolt is shot!” But it is what the Republicans see as a winning strategy and they are going to stick to it. After all, this type of approach has worked in the past.
Also with a certain amount of justification, the Republicans charge that if the Democrats really wanted to solve the illegal immigration problem, they would make more of an effort to seal off the border to prevent the continued influx of immigrants. Republicans suggest that once the border is sealed, they would be willing to discuss a reasonable solution for those undocumented immigrants already in the country.
But don’t bet on it. The issue is just too valuable a connection with the Republican base. And as long as the Democrats feel that they can use immigration to mobilize their base of support, they will also keep the issue alive.
As a result, a problem that could be easily solved is allowed to fester and grow worse because both the Republicans and Democrats believe it is to their political advantage to do so. Even if innocent children suffer as a result. But who cares? The kids can’t vote and that’s all that counts.