Thursday, March 22, 2007

Watering Down Immigration Reform

Rep. Randy Terrill, who has authored the landmark immigration reform measure, HB 1804, which has passed the State House and is waiting to be assigned to a committee in the Senate, was on the Michael Delgiorno show this morning.

Amongst a lengthy discussion about the bill, Terrill mentioned one thing that jumped out at me. He noted that Sen. James Williamson (R-Tulsa), who is championing Terrill's bill in the Senate, was under intense pressure to "water down the bill."

Where is this pressure coming from? Well, Terrill mentioned two broad entities in his comments, that were responsible for the attempted dilution; "Big Business" and "The Chamber."

I'm not surprised that the construction, agriculture and restaurant industries might be interested in keeping a steady flow of cheap labor coming from the south. Any legislator worth his or her salt should expect such pressure and ignore it. However, I am a bit shocked that the collective Chambers-of-Commerce would be against this bill.

Most likely the Chamber objects to the provision within Terrill's bill to levy stiff fines on employers who knowingly hire illegals. Originally, Terrill suggested that a third-time offender might actually see his or her business shut down.

According to Terrill, Williamson as expected, is holding his ground like a conservative champion should. But the real question is what will many of the less conservative Republicans do should this bill make it intact to a vote of the full Senate?

If Tulsa Republican legislators value re-election, they should seriously consider ignoring The Chamber and heed the recently adopted platform of the Tulsa County Republican Party, which states:
"We support substantial state fines for employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens."

The grassroots of the party is up in arms about the invasion of our state by illegal workers. It would be foolish (but common) for our elected officials to serve the guys that write the most checks, rather than those who cast the most votes back home. It takes a lot of money to undo the damage of one ill thought-out vote, especially when that vote is well publicized. And let me assure you, the grassroots will be told who waivers.

It is often the influence of paid campaign advisers, (who don't get paid unless the contributors are excited about the candidate's re-election), who lead elected officials astray from their support base. Don't get me wrong, this influence doesn't come in the form of campaign advisers calling state senators and telling them how to vote. It is the lobbyists for the special interests who take care of such pressure. Often, they not so subtly suggest that you might face well funded opposition in your next race. "Oh...and one more thing." the lobbyists might say, "You aren't going to be as well funded this election, because we're not giving you a dime."

Why do they fear this? Because the vast majority of candidates don't have a clue how to run a campaign themselves, and fear that they can't win without the paid strategists that got them elected in the first place. They end up putting more faith in their handlers' ability to spin the truth in campaign literature, than they do in the voters' ability to discern the truth.

Thus, in the wake of such pressure, the path many legislators take is to water the bill down to where it has little real impact, and then crow about how they supported "landmark legislation" curbing illegal aliens! That way, everyone is happy.

Happy that is, if the voters are kept in the dark about the truth.

On this issue, the voters care enough that they are watching and listening.

Water down at your own peril, dear Tulsa Republicans.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I noted this morning a case working up through the courts where a city had passed ordinances that businesses would lose licensing and perhaps face fines if it were proven that undocumented workers were employed. Of course, the ACLU had filed suit arguing that it caused discrimination and that immigration was a federal matter, not an issue to be "policed" by state and local governments.
Interesting to see how it goes.