When the wrong people are not completely wrongâ€¦
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For the first time in six years, I find myself thinking that Bush is not completely unreasonable. I also happen find myself in rare agreement with both the Catholic Church and Sen. Hillary Clinton. It's not that I've suddenly become a social conservative or had some kind of conversion -- it's just that Bush, Clinton, and the Church (an unlikely trio by all accounts) are not completely wrong when it comes to immigration policy.
Dubya has always supported a guest worker program which, like the Braceros program of the 1940s, would allow immigrants to come to this country and work legally for a set period of time. This is obviously a nod toward the business community that wants to keep its cheap labor without giving workers any real benefits -- not an ideal solution at all. However, a guest worker program is way more compassionate and reasonable than the far-right, anti-immigrant stance of those who essentially want to criminalize and deport all undocumented workers.
Of course, Bush's guest worker program leaves a lot to be desired, and I am certainly not its biggest fan. It is unrealistic -- it asks immigrants to identify themselves as illegal and gives few incentives to do so since there is no path to citizenship and workers would eventually have to return to their home countries. The guest worker proposal essentially asks millions of people to come out of hiding on the off chance that they will be punished later rather than sooner, when there is still the chance that they could get away with not being punished at all. Not quite right, but not quite wrong, either.
What I find hopeful in Bush's proposal is his disagreement with the far right.
Bush, Clinton, and the Catholic Church have all voiced their opposition to the harsh legislation that calls for the construction of walls along parts of the southern border, criminalizes anyone who helps (i.e. feeds, clothes, provides medical care to) undocumented immigrants, and makes illegal immigration a felony crime rather than a civil crime.
Clinton even attempted to shame the unshamable legislators (Congressmen Bill Frist, Arlen Spector, and F. James Sensenbrenner) by metaphorically throwing the bible at them:
"It is hard to believe that a Republican leadership that is constantly talking about values and about faith would put forth such a mean-spirited piece of legislation..."
"[The Sensenbrenner Bill, HR-4437] is certainly not in keeping with my understanding of the Scripture because this bill would literally criminalize the Good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself," [Clinton] said.
And the Catholic Church says it will defy the law if legislators pass a bill criminalizing assistance to undocumented immigrants.
My point is that when Bush, Clinton, and the Catholic Church are all considered the "liberals" in a debate, you know things have gone hog-wild. Bush says a wall at the border "won't work" in stopping the tide of immigration, Clinton says the anti-immigration legislation is "mean-spirited" and Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony said the proposed criminalization of assisting undocumented workers is "just crazy." For probably the only time in my life, I can agree with all three of them.
Maria Luisa Tucker is a staff writer at AlterNet and associate editor of the Columbia Journal of American Studies.