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Editorial / Periscope - Niall O'Dowd
Hope for Reform
November 19, 2008
THE victories by President-elect Barack Obama in states such as Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Florida sent a strong signal about the extraordinary role that the Hispanic vote played in this election.
Put simply, without the 75% Hispanic vote support that he enjoyed Obama would have found it a lot harder to get to the White House.
At the same time the defeat of 10 of the 12 most anti-immigrant representatives in the House, as well the defeat of Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole, also notoriously anti-immigrant, in the Senate race in North Carolina sends its own signal.
What is says is that railing against the undocumented doesn’t sell well with the vast majority of Americans, and it downright damages the party that uses it continuously from its bag of dirty tricks.
The power of the Hispanic vote in this election is a powerful signal to the immigration lobby that real reform can be achieved in the life of the next Congress. After the bitter disappointment of the Bush years we are looking at a whole new beginning with Obama.
The president-elect has been a supporter of comprehensive reform and, no doubt, his extraordinary level of support in the Hispanic community will further nudge him in the direction of doing something decisive.
It is no certain thing, however, as we learned in the current administration with the failed effort to pass the Kennedy/McCain bill in this Congress.
Indeed, Hispanic leaders have already stated that they do not expect immediate action on the issue given the dangerous state of the economy and the two major separate wars that America is fighting.
However, immigration groups should be reluctant to allow too much time to pass before making their presence known. The reality is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease in Congress, and there is no time like the present to capitalize on the incredible support Obama got from Hispanic voters.
Of course the usual clowns such as Lou Dobbs and many legislators will begin their catch cries soon after any campaign is launched. But if this election showed anything it is that Americans are ready for tough, fair solutions to difficult problems and are desperately tired of the business as usual atmosphere in Congress.
The anti-immigrant sentiment whipped up by people such as Dobbs and others was evident in the tragic death of a young Ecuadorian immigrant in Patchogue, Long Island last week when a gang of high schoolers went on a “Mexican” hunting expedition and stabbed him to death.
It is hardly coincidental that the Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, a Democrat, has been among the most vituperative and hate-filled spokesmen against immigrants. His bile certainly bore evil fruit on this occasion.
All of which points to the need to settle on a sensible immigration policy that solves the issue once and for all.
No one is calling for open borders, and everyone wishes that laws can be enforced, but there is no doubt that some kind of program with a path to citizenship for the undocumented must be instituted. No less a person than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the same point in The New York Times Magazine last Sunday.
With Obama as president that day is certainly nearer, but it cannot come soon enough for the thousands of Irish and other undocumented who live in dread every day. Let us hope the new president sets a process in motion that can end this enduring nightmare for everyone.
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