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La Liga de Las Americas

HB 6061: Sherrod Brown’s flip-flop on immigration disappoints Latino supporters

Commentary by Alan Abrams, La Prensa Senior Correspondent


In politics, there is nothing like inconsistency.


After voting five times against constructing a fence along the Mexican-U.S. border, U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown, the Democrat candidate for U.S. Senator from Ohio, shocked many of his supporters in the Latino community Sept. 14 by voting ‘yes’ on a vote for 700 miles of double-layered border fencing—some 35 percent of that southern border—at a projected cost of 7 billion dollars.


Republicans seized upon the moment to point out Brown’s hypocrisy. And a staff member of the re-election committee of his Republican opponent, Sen. Mike DeWine, issued a statement accusing Brown of “shameless election year pandering.”


Brown declined to be interviewed by La Prensa or to satisfactorily explain his change of heart on his vote of ‘yes’ on HR 6061, the latest reincarnation of a portion of the draconian Sensenbrenner “Berlin Wall” solution to stem immigration by Mexicans.


Instead, Brown’s office ducked the issue by saying “this legislation was one of the few opportunities to take steps to secure our borders.” and blamed it all on NAFTA, stating that “revamping NAFTA is critical to addressing immigration issues.”


Secure our borders? With what country? There have not been any reports that terrorists have crossed the Mexican-U.S. border to infiltrate and attack the United States. But they have crossed the Canadian border, eh? And the Canadian-U.S. border is twice the mileage of the Mexican-U.S. border.


Here’s where G.O.B. (Good Old-fashioned Bigotry) comes into play again. Most, but certainly not all, Canadians are white, just like the majority of U.S.-Americans. Certainly not like those Mexicans. Bigots are really good at spotting them. And they don’t even need a manual of La Migra.


So let’s play the euphemism game. Putting all the money and concentration upon protecting the border with México is not going to be a deterrent to terrorists. Instead, it is just going to keep those pesky Mexicans down where they belong—and let’s put the emphasis upon “down.”


So why won’t the right-wing zealots like Republican U.S. Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner and Tom Tancredo just acknowledge it? No, instead we have a phony election year ploy to scare voters with the bogeyman of terrorists hiding behind every cactus and waiting for their chance to sneak out of the Mexican desert and into the U.S.


A similar ploy, in the form of gay-bashing, was successful, after all, in the 2004 elections.


Adolph Hitler ran for Chancellor of Germany on a program that hardly disguised his hatred and scapegoating of the Jews. And he won the election. So why can’t the NANs (Native American Nazis) like Sensenbrenner and Tancredo just admit they hate those damn Mexicans? They’ll get re-elected and the country won’t have to go through a fake debate on securing its borders.


But then Dick Cheney’s Halliburton and Boeing wouldn’t be getting all those lucrative border security contracts, would they? 


And don’t forget, the United States has already upset three major oil producers—Iran, Iraq, and Venezuela. Why not add México to the list.


Now let’s get back to the disappointment of Sherrod Brown. Did his attempt to reach out to Democratic conservatives and Republicans by saying “Hey look, I really think just like you guys” get him points with Republican conservatives?


Any one who has street smarts could have told him the answer.


Congressman Brown must feel a lot like Rodney Dangerfield. He just can’t get any respect from the Right—especially when Brown followed up his pro-fence building vote by voting against the so-called Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006. That’s a fancy patriotic name for another thinly disguised anti-immigrant bill that requires a photo ID and proof of citizenship for a person to be eligible to vote. I mean, who wants to say they’re against integrity in federal elections? But this is all about integrity.


The Republicans jumped all over Brown for that vote. Actually, they never really recognized Brown's vote to build walls on the border as anything but what it was—a politically motivated flip flop designed to get him votes from voters who might only be impressed if Brown showed up at rallies with an honor guard of Storm Troopers.


Senator Mike DeWine has greatly moderated his stance and now votes his conscience more often than he does the party line. Case in point? His support for the Kennedy-McCain compromise on immigration reform earlier this year. But with several key votes on immigration possible this week—at least according to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist—it will be interesting to see where he votes.


Meanwhile, the statement by Breann González of the DeWine campaign still sums up Brown's flip flop accurately. It was “shameless election year pandering.” And look up the definition of pandering in your dictionary if you still have any doubts.


How strange that it would remind this commentator of U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland’s vote to support the original Sensenbrenner bill in the House (Dec. 16, 2005, HB 4437)—and his inability to fully explain his actions to Latino voters despite several public apologies for that vote. But don’t think it hasn’t left lingering doubts, especially in light of his declining to vote on HB 6061.


U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur’s Sept. 14 vote of “present” during the roll call on HB 6061 is another cop-out. But again the question is why? For Marcy, not to have voted on this issue also shocked many of her supporters in the Latino community.


In Ohio, only Stephanie Jones and Dennis Kucinich voted against HB 6061. In Michigan, we can thank Representatives John Conyers, John Dingell, Carolyn Kilpatrick, and Sander Levin for being consistent on civil rights and immigration reform, when they voted “No” on HB 6061.


But in all fairness to Marcy and Sherrod, NAFTA is a major reason for the necessity of immigration reform and as exemplified in the Kennedy-McCain Senate bill, which Republicans have successfully scuttled in this important election year.






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