Illegal immigration wasn’t even an issue in 2000 or 2004. Now, it is becoming the issue for Romney and Giuliani to fight over. McCain’s “comprehensive” proposal is one of the factors that will sink him on Super Tuesday.
On the Democratic side, a proposal to give illegals drivers licenses has capsized Eliot Spitzer in Albany; Hillary’s recent slide started when she failed to blast the Spitzer proposal. Obama supported the McCain comprehensive reform, which, given the climate of the present GOP race, will be used as a cudgel against him in the general– or at least as a wedge to peel off the moderates and independents.
The problem for Democrats is that, barring some new disaster in Iraq, illegal immigration has thus far gained far more traction as a hot-button isssue than Edward’s greedy corporations. The “progressive” position– as demonstrated by Spitzer, and Hillary’s unwillingness to take a shot at Spitzer– seems like it poses some serious problems in the vote-garnering department.
The problem for both parties is that positions on illegal immigration cut across party lines. Progressive vs. Lou Dobbs Democrats; business vs. social conservatives. This introduces an element of uncertainty into the election, as the candidates try to finesse and duck an issue upon which most voters have a strong opinion.
Here is my prediction for 2008: illegal immigration will be a bigger issue than the readers of this site would like. That makes Tom Tancredo the most successful candidate thus far, because without his efforts, this issue would be no more an issue than it was in 1996, 2000, or 2004.
My compromise on this issue is simple: less illegal immigration, punctuated by stronger enforcement against employers and illegal immigrants, all in return for more, and more fair, legal immigration. Fat chance of that coming about.