If It Was Good Enough For Reagan, Why Isn’t It Good Enough for Whitman and Poizner?

“It” refers to granting amnesty to undocumented immigrants. In 1986 Ronald Reagan signed a bill that included amnesty provisions, yet conservatives and Republicans still revere him. That 1986 bill did not destroy America or its economy, as we had at least two sustained periods of significant economic growth in this country afterward.

Despite the myriad other problems facing California, Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner have apparently decided that “illegal immigration” is the most important issue facing Californians. Both have written op-eds in today’s LA Times on the issue, and both try to outdo each other in opposing amnesty, blaming immigrants for California’s problems, and pledging a crackdown, even though none of this is either practical or necessary.

Meg Whitman:

As a Republican, I believe it’s important to both continue our rich tradition of protecting the rule of law while diligently reaching out to the millions of Latinos who share our values.

While I am a strong proponent of legal immigration, I am 100% opposed to granting amnesty to immigrants who entered the country illegally. It is the wrong policy for California, it is the wrong policy for America, and it is grossly unfair to those immigrants who have followed the law to obtain legal status….

Taken together, these steps would make a significant difference in reducing the burdens of illegal immigration without casting unneeded and discourteous aspersions on Latino American citizens and driving them away from the Republican Party.

I have been criticized for opposing Proposition 187, which was on the California ballot in 1994. It is true that I am opposed to cutting off public education and healthcare services to immigrant children. I do not believe that kids should be punished for the sins of their parents.

This is notable for a few reasons. First, it’s one of the first times Whitman actually acknowledges she’s a Republican, something she won’t do in her TV ads. Second, it shows she is calling Reagan’s own policy “wrong for America.”

Third, it is intended to show she is sensitive to concerns that she might alienate Latino voters with this stance. She mentions her opposition to Prop 187 not out of a desire to clear the air, but as a signal to Latino voters that she’s not Pete Wilson (just that he’s one of her key advisors).

She’s gambling that her 50-point lead over Poizner is enough cushion to try and ever so timidly reach out to Latinos. There’s no reason to believe Whitman is driven by anything other that political calculus here, and it doesn’t hide the fact that the Republican Party as a whole in this state remains deeply hostile to Latinos, does not see them as legitimate members of our society, and instead sees them as a scapegoat at best, villains at worst.

If any evidence of that is needed, just read Steve Poizner’s op-ed:

Above all, California has too many policies that reward illegal aliens and act like magnets, drawing them to and keeping them in our cities and communities. We have to change those policies.

Ten other states, including neighboring Arizona, have passed laws to cut taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal immigrants. We need such legislation too. In this time of fiscal crisis, we can’t afford to subsidize the presence of illegal aliens.

One taxpayer-funded benefit for illegal aliens that should be stopped is in-state tuition at our public colleges and universities. Today, California is one of just 10 states that allow illegal immigrants access to reduced college tuition at taxpayer expense.

In other words, Poizner actually does believe that we should punish children for their immigration status or that of their parents. He justifies this by claiming that such policies act as “magnets” for immigrants, which is total nonsense.

As Poizner almost certainly knows, immigration is driven largely by job opportunities in this state. Immigrants have been among the hardest hit Californians during this recession, especially those engaged in agricultural and construction work, industries with unemployment rates of 30%-40% depending on the location.

Poizner thinks the path to the Republican nomination lies through bashing Latinos and immigrants. Usually that might work, but with a 50 point deficit, I’m doubtful it will. Still, by once again scapegoating immigrants for economic problems caused by others (large corporations and banks), the Republican candidates are once again unleashing a monster of hate and intolerance. It’s unnecessary, and Californians will be able to render their judgement on these vicious campaign tactics in November, no matter who the Republican nominee turns out to be.