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Pundits on both sides of the immigration debate look like their heads may explode before the any reform legislation reaches the Senate floor next week.
The anti-immigrant forces have been issuing increasingly dramatic alerts asking their xenophobic followers to protest any immigration reform bill thatâ€”gasp!â€”might actually include a guest worker provision.
For example, the ultra conservative website RightMarch.com is asking each of its readers to pay $14 to fax a letter to Judiciary Committee members. The form letter they recommend is emphatic, telling Senators that they "will listen to NO MORE weasel words or slick excuses" and basically demands that Congress send all them foreigners back where they came from, gosh durnit.
The equally xenophobic Immigration Watchdog is lying to its followers, telling them that, "The committee is preparing an unlimited guest worker amnesty plan. 20 million illegal aliens and their families living abroad will be given de facto amnesty."
Uh, what? Couple things wrong with that one, watchdog.
First of all, there aren't 20 million undocumented immigrants in this country (most estimates fall around the 11 million range). And second, there are no bills being considered that seek unlimited amnesty. But I'll take these ridiculous attempts as a good sign-- desperation spells defeat, hopefully.
The escalation in the sheer number and drama of each action alert is no surprise, though. Things have been heating up for a while.
Last week, anti-immigrant Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), and Puerto Rican born Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) got into a shouting match after appearing on CNBC. The televised debate apparently escalated after the cameras stopped rolling. According to the Rocky Mountain News:
At one point, Gutierrez reportedly asked Tancredo if he had ever eaten in a restaurant.
"How could you eat from the plates touched by those nasty illegal immigrants?" Gutierrez said [sarcastically].
He then asked Tancredo, "Have you ever eaten an orange? A grape?" - an apparent reference to illegal farm workers.
He then repeated the phrase several times as Tancredo tried to answer: "An orange, a grape, an orange, a grape, an orange, a grape."
Gutierrez, who has a cast on a foot, reportedly walked toward an elevator, but Tancredo tried to stop him by putting his hand on his shoulder. Gutierrez reportedly demanded: "Get your hand off me!"
Add to all this insanity the drama of the Minuteman.
Gas station parking lots across the nation's borders are filling up with legal observers who are watching Minutemen "civil defense" volunteers, who are watching day laborers, who are hanging out waiting for some work (and probably biding their time by watching the legal observers and the Minutemen scowl at one another).
It's a crazy world, y'all. Let's try to make it a little more sane by speeding along some halfway decent immigration reform legislation.
If you're like me and you don't equate dangerous criminality with the millions of people who have crossed illegally into the U.S. to wash dishes, harvest food, and construct homes, then let's take a stand against the anti-immigrant crazies.
Maria Luisa Tucker is a staff writer at AlterNet and associate editor of the Columbia Journal of American Studies.