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Bush's Immigration Dilemma

The president has politically prospered by remaining tough and even divisive on national security issues.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Nov 01, 2006
The Republican Party may save crucial southwestern seats in the midterm elections, but at the cost of badly damaging U.S long-term border security policy. The GOP has made boosting border security a central plank of its campaign strategy to try and stave off losing control of the U.S. House of Representatives and, possibly the Senate as well in the midterm congressional elections next Tuesday.

That approach looks unlikely to swing significant support around the United States as a whole. In general, concern over the deteriorating war in Iraq scores much more highly on campaign issues, especially among independent voters, than border security does. However, there is no question that the issue has become a hot button one throughout the southwestern states, and a raft of Republican candidates are running with it.

That, however, is precisely the problem that may face the Bush administration when it deals with the next Congress. Even it if it can stave off a Democratic takeover of the House, it is likely to face withering criticism from the tough anti-immigration wing of its own party because its policies on immigration are too soft.

The congressional race in Tucson highlights the complexities and ironies of the political transformation now rolling over the Southwest, and illustrates how it may impact on U.S. immigration and border security policy.

In Arizona's Eighth District, Republican Randy Graf, an ex-golfer and Arizona state legislator is squaring off against Democratic hopeful Gabrielle Giffords. Graf, predictably, is a lot tougher on immigration issues than Giffords, who stands with a Democratic Party eager to reverse the inroads that the GOP made into its traditionally loyal Hispanic support in the 2004 presidential election.

What is startling is that it is Giffords whose positions on immigration issues echo those of President George W. Bush. Graf is highly critical of the administration for being too soft on immigration and not being willing to consider deporting possibly millions of illegal immigrants.

To add to the complexity of the situation, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a moderate who supports the Bush program on immigration, has endorsed Graf, while making no mention of Graf's radically different position from his own on immigration when he did so.

Graf's challenge for the open seat vacated by outgoing Rep. Jim Kolbe is also seen as having wider significance because he was a founding member of the Minutemen, the volunteer unofficial border patrol group that has been labeled as vigilantes by its critics.

Up to now, opinion polls have put Giffords clearly in the lead, riding the national backlash against the Republican-run Congress over the deterioration of the war in Iraq, soaring energy prices and economic unease.

The dynamics of the Graf-Giffords race in Tucson highlight a longer-term dilemma facing the Republicans over immigration. As Mac Johnson wrote in the Washington-based conservative journal Human Events in an article posted on its Web site Tuesday, the simple fact is there's a huge difference between the parties on the amnesty issue: Republicans are divided over it with most opposing amnesty. For Democrats, there is no such division -- they wholeheartedly support amnesty."

Johnson predicted that if the Democrats take over control of the House next week, President Bush is far more likely to win congressional approval for his amnesty plan than if his own party, which is running on the platform of being tough on border security, retains control of the chamber.

"If Democrats win big next week, the Senate will resurrect their amnesty bill, a Democrat-controlled House will pass it, and there can be no doubt that President George W. Bush will sign it," Johnson wrote.

On the other hand, if the GOP retains control of the House, or if they lose control of the chamber, but a number of border security hawks like Graf are elected anyway, Bush will find himself in a new and very uncomfortable situation.

The president has politically prospered by remaining tough and even divisive on national security issues. He has usually eschewed bipartisan cooperation on them. However, in dealing with the next Congress, he may find himself forced to rely on Democratic support to get his cherished immigration reform revived and passed. The main opposition to it will come from a vocal and growing wing of his own party

Source: United Press International

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