Flowers: Can we agree on immigration reform?
President Obama was savvy enough to give shout-outs to all of his supporters in the inaugural address last week.
The women got their 'woo hoo!' African-Americans got their 'uh huh!' Gays got their 'I hear ya!' And Latinos, who as we all know are the only immigrants the Democrats really pay attention to, got their 'si, se puede!'
I don't really care too much about the ladies or the racial and sexual minorities. It's fairly clear that liberals have a stranglehold on those votes, and the whole "Seneca-Selma-Stonewall" rhetoric underlined just how beholden this president is to his in-house cheerleaders from the multicultural grievance committees. I was a little surprised that Obama mentioned a riot at a New York gay bar in the same breath as noble protests in upstate New York and Alabama, but I suppose one man's drunken brawl is another's cafeteria sit-in.
The thing that really annoys me is the whole idea that Obama is now the savior of the "Immigrant" with a capital "I."
I've been working with the foreign-born for the past two decades, and I can promise you that this president has done a lot more pontificating than legislating. Of course, you will come back with the legitimate comment that a president doesn't make laws, he just signs them (or, in the case of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, breaks them.) But Congress understands when there's someone in office who is serious about making change instead of just saving face, and it has been clear from the beginning that Barack Obama is primarily interested in using the immigration issue to make conservatives look bad.
Not that he hasn't gotten a lot of help from my side of the ideological divide. With people like our Pennsylvania state Sen. Darryl Metcalfe who drones on incessantly about anchor babies and the need to take away birthright citizenship, with states like Arizona challenging the Supremacy Clause, with renegades like Joe Arpaio treating human beings like trash simply because they end up on the wrong side of the border, it isn't hard to point to the sins of Republicans. I don't defend them here, or anywhere.
But at least the GOP is honest when it comes to the immigration issue. There is no winking here, no half-whispered truths or attempts to make it seem like they stand for one thing but use the back rooms to achieve the opposite. The GOP does not use or manipulate the issue of immigration. Its most extreme members simply stand shoulder-to-shoulder and make the rather ridiculous demand that we ignore millions of people living among us as if they wore those invisible cloaks designed by Marvel Comics.
There are notable, and noble, exceptions to that rule. John McCain was one. Arlen Specter was another. Susanna Martinez, Linda Chavez and Marco Rubio (more on him later) are also outspoken in their support for immigration reform. But they either aren't loud enough or, as I suspect, the media doesn't want to give them a platform because it would undermine that accepted liberal narrative that conservatives hate immigrants.
Fortunately, that is starting to change. The GOP is beginning to wake up to the reality that being pro-immigrant does not mean opening our borders to drug traffickers and debasing the wages of hard-working native Americans. It does not mean that we will adding to the welfare rolls ('illegals' aren't eligible anyway) or turning the United States into the Estados Unidos. What it means, and they now realize this, is that conservatives can finally wipe the supercilious smiles off the faces of liberals who have talked a nice talk for years but who, quite deliberately, have done very little to make positive changes to our system.
It started with Susanna Martinez getting up at the Republican National Convention and talking lovingly about her parents, Mexican immigrants who taught her the importance of family unity. Then there was Nikki Haley, another child of immigrants who talked about how her Indian parents gave her an appreciation for hard work. And then there was Marco Rubio who essentially shamed Obama into making life easier for the "Dreamers" by threatening with his own expansive immigration bill which has the support of a conservative like former VP candidate Paul Ryan.
The truth is that the president is more politician than populist. And that goes as well for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, Democrats who talk the big talk about the 99 percent but whose affection for the afflicted is affected.
Rick Santorum knows it too, observing this week that "there's not a single Republican up on Capitol Hill who believes (Obama) wants to get it done. They all believe he will put (forward a) measure that the Republicans can't accept (and when it doesn't pass he will) blame Republicans and then continue to drive a wedge between Republicans and Hispanics."
Now is the time for the country to come together and create real, workable immigration reform.
Democrats should do it because they've always pretended to care. Republicans should do it because, if they don't, they will lose a winnable battle for the souls of the very type of people who believe in the conservative principles of family, faith and economic freedom.
Not to mention they'd make my life a lot easier.
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.