|Democrats cowed by GOP scare tactics on immigrants
By Juan Gonzalez
November 15th 2007, New York Daily News
ADRIANO ESPAILLAT, THE STATE assemblyman from Washington
Heights, was touring the storm-ravaged Dominican Republic
when he got a telephone call from Gov. Spitzer.
It was late Tuesday and the governor told him that he was
abandoning his plan to issue driver's licenses to illegal
immigrants in New York State.
After two months of relentless pounding from Senate
Republicans and television pundits like Lou Dobbs, and after
a firestorm of public opposition against his plan, Spitzer
was conceding defeat.
"This is tragic," Espaillat said yesterday. "The undertone of
bigotry on this issue has prevailed. The Democratic Party in
this state just caved and shifted to the right."
Espaillat voiced what many Latino leaders now fear: Illegal
immigration is rapidly becoming the boogey man of the
upcoming presidential race.
Republican leaders, fearing a complete rout of their party in
next year's national election, are determined to ride public
anger over undocumented immigrants in the same way they rode
anger over gay marriage in the 2004 race.
Look at all those illegal Salvadoran gardeners and Mexican
bus boys and Jamaican nannies and Haitian sugar cane cutters
- all those weapons of mass destruction aimed at America.
Terrorists abroad. Alien invasion within. Danger everywhere.
Such is the tone of many of the e-mails and letters I receive
whenever I write about immigration. Others are so filled with
pure venom toward Hispanics they make Dobbs, the Father
Coughlin of our time, sound positively warm and cuddly.
Early this week, U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, the Republican
presidential candidate from Colorado, released a campaign
commercial in Iowa.
It shows a hooded terrorist with a bomb in a shopping mall,
while talking about "20 million aliens who have come here to
take our jobs" and "Islamic terrorists freely roaming on U.S.
Like Bush, who falsely linked Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda,
Tancredo and the extreme wing of the anti-immigrant movement
are falsely linking foreign terrorists to immigrants who come
here desperate to find work.
While governors and mayors across America are being forced to
deal with the failure of Congress to approve comprehensive
immigration reform, Tancredo and the haters whip up the worst
Tancredo's presidential campaign may not be getting much
support, but his views on immigration are getting far more
Last week, House Republicans pushed through a last-minute
provision that forbids the federal Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission from pursuing discrimination cases
against companies that force their workers to speak only
When more than 30 centrist Democrats joined with the
Republicans to pass the bill, members of the Hispanic Caucus
were furious; they threatened to withhold their votes on
other important bills in protest.
"We've had to fight and argue every day with some of our own
Democrats to stop them from backing anti-immigrant measures,"
said U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, (D-N.Y.).
The solution to the immigration problem is comprehensive
reform from Washington. But with half the Democrats cowed by
the fear-mongering of the extreme right, the most voiceless
and powerless people in America - undocumented workers - are
about to become this year's Willie Horton.
Born in Puerto Rico and raised in East Harlem and Brooklyn,
Juan Gonzalez has reported for nearly 30 years from the
toughest streets and alleys of urban America, and has been a
Daily News staff columnist since 1988. A graduate of Franklin
K. Lane High School and Columbia College, he is a recipient
of the 1998 George Polk Award for commentary. The Village
Voice once dubbed him "the most radical person in the above-
it-all world of New York daily newspapers," while Hispanic
Business magazine has called him one of the nation's 100 most
influential Hispanics. Gonzalez prefers to be called an old-
fashioned pencil-packing troublemaker.