Florida’s evolving immigration politics
Over the weekend, the transnational center-left pollster Stanley B. Greenberg published an op-ed in The New York Times explaining what Democrats can do to regain their mojo. Among the suggested measures? Pass comprehensive immigration reform:
To show that government can protect the nation’s interests, Democrats should advocate policies that would control the borders and address problems of undocumented workers.
Dealing with this is even more important in Europe, where anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic parties are surging at the expense of the mainstream left and right parties in France, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway, site of the recent slaughter for which an extreme right-winger has claimed responsibility.
In the face of such madness, it is tempting to view the issue as illegitimate, but mainstream parties do so at great cost. Our work in Austria and Britain shows that it is possible for progressives to champion immigration policies that protect the labor market and promote and require integration, beginning with language and schooling.
In the United States, those who advocate comprehensive immigration reform are demonstrating that they consider responsibility a primary value. My surveys show that voters want comprehensive immigration reform rather than half measures. They would like to see strong enforcement at the border and in the workplace, and the expulsion of troublesome undocumented immigrants. While favoring toughness, they also want to find ways to put undocumented workers on a path to citizenship.
In theory, the same convergence of interests that beat back an Arizona-style crackdown in Florida — visible, persistent protests by progressives and immigration activists, coupled with behind-the-scenes lobbying by business and agricultural interests — could get behind a comprehensive measure at the federal level (though perhaps not exactly as Greenberg describes).
For his part, Gov. Rick Scott downplayed the idea that he saw immigration as a high priority for the upcoming legislative session today when he invited Tallahassee reporters into his office for an “open house.” The state’s finances, as well as various insurance-related issues, seemed to weigh more heavily on his mind. He said he was disappointed that an immigration measure didn’t reach his desk this year, but noted a bill could face even more political headwinds next year, with an election looming.
He also seemed to take a more nuanced stance on the issue than he has in the past, saying he was concerned about the impact a tough enforcement measure could have on businesses, and that an ultimate solution has to come from the federal government.
Still, he said he supported a solution that sounded like the federal-local cooperation of the 287(g) program: People who break the law should have their immigration status checked out by law enforcement. What exactly it means to break the law (would traffic offenses count?) is something that still needs to be worked out, he said.