# Illegal Immigrants

Fallout continues from Republican pandering on immigration

During Saturday’s Republican gubernatorial debate I was struck by how eager all three candidates were to pander on the immigration issue. For example, in response to a question by Iowa Public Radio journalist Jeneane Beck, all the Republicans said they would deny in-state tuition at Iowa universities to the children of illegal immigrants.

That’s easier said than done, since many children of undocumented immigrants were born in the U.S. and are consequently U.S. citizens. For that reason, former Governor Terry Branstad has backpedaled a bit since the debate. Meeting with the Des Moines Register editorial board on Tuesday morning, Branstad “said he would have to consider the constitutionality” of denying in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants who were born in this country. Later the same day, Branstad’s campaign spokesman Tim Albrecht told the Des Moines Register, “If they are born here, they are legal residents. If they are, they should be afforded every opportunity as every legal resident of the state.”

Branstad’s leading Republican rival, Bob Vander Plaats, talked a good game about the “rule of law” during Saturday’s debate but insists that he would deny children of illegal immigrants in-state tuition, even if they were born here. I expect Vander Plaats supporters to make a big deal out of Branstad’s “flip-flop” on the issue, even though Branstad’s new stance is correct from a legal standpoint. The Register’s Tom Beaumont reported that the third Republican running for governor, Rod Roberts, “stopped short of saying U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants should not qualify” for in-state tuition.

Meanwhile, Vander Plaats remains the only candidate in the Republican field to advocate an Arizona-style crackdown on undocumented immigrants for Iowa. I oppose Arizona’s new law on principle, because it is un-American to give the police power to put you in jail if you’re not immediately able to “show your papers.” Branstad and Roberts have declined to advocate copying Arizona for more pragmatic reasons, such as the cost of implementation. Polk County Sheriff Bill McCarthy put in his two cents on that angle yesterday:

“It’s all well and good to demagogue the issue, but there’s a reality to it,” McCarthy said during the elected official discussion segment of this morning’s Board of Supervisors workshop.

If illegal immigrants awaiting deportation were detained at the Polk County Jail at a cost of $95 per day without adequate support from the federal government, it could cost millions of dollars, McCarthy said. […]

The current jail system will not work if Iowa adopts a law similar to the one in Arizona, McCarthy said later in an interview with The Des Moines Register.

“The bottom line is that we’re dealing with human beings,” he said. “And I know they shouldn’t be here and I know they entered the country illegally. But if they’re here, they’re people and I think we have to deal with them in a humane way, particularly when there are children involved.”

The immigration issue provides a convenient crutch to Republican candidates, but the favored right-wing approach would be extremely costly, not to mention impractical. While we’re on the subject, I’d like to hear third district Congressional candidate Brad Zaun explain how he would “put [all the illegal immigrants in Iowa] on a bus and send them wherever they came from.”

Any thoughts on immigration policy are welcome in this thread. How long do you think Republican candidates will get away with massively exaggerating the amount of money Iowa could save by cutting services to undocumented immigrants?

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Grassley votes no as Senate Finance Committee approves health care bill

The Senate Finance Committee approved its health care reform bill on a 14-9 vote yesterday, with all Democrats and Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine voting in favor. Ranking Republican Chuck Grassley, a key member of the committee’s “gang of six” negotiators this summer, joined the rest of the Republicans in voting against the bill. Speaking to the Des Moines Register Grassley “said he has no regrets about working with majority Democrats on the committee, only to oppose the bill. Given more time, he might have struck a deal, he said.”

This guy is the perfect picture of a bad-faith negotiator. From the Register:

Grassley said he objects most to provisions in the bill that would require Americans to obtain health insurance. But Grassley also said the bill does too little to block federal money being spent to provide abortions and provide coverage for illegal immigrants.

“Those aren’t the only things, but I think they are the most controversial or the most difficult to deal with,” Grassley told The Des Moines Register.

As Jason Hancock reported for the Iowa Independent last week, Grassley publicly supported the idea of an individual mandate to purchase health insurance this summer. I agree that requiring individuals to purchase insurance is problematic if there is no broad-based public health insurance option (because then the government is just subsidizing private insurers), but of course Grassley opposed the public option too.

In addition, the “gang of six” made changes in the bill before markup to address groundless Republican claims about illegal immigrants. According to PolitiFact, the “Baucus plan explicitly states that no federal funds – whether through tax credits or cost-sharing credits – could be used to pay for abortions (again, except for rape, incest, or the life of the mother).”

Trying to cut deals with Grassley is a waste of time. For more on that point, check out the skipper’s recent diary.

Speaking of Grassley, Cityview’s Civic Skinny thinks he should be worried about a potential race against attorney Roxanne Conlin. When a reporter asked Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack whether his wife, Christie Vilsack, might run against Grassley, he replied, “You should ask her about that.” (UPDATE: Dave Price did ask her and wonders whether she is the mystery candidate.)

As for the health care bill, the Finance Committee and HELP Committee versions have to be merged before a floor vote. It’s imperative that a public option be included in the version sent to the floor, and HELP Committee representative Chris Dodd says he will fight for that. On the other hand, Snowe and a few Democrats, like Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, might vote against the bill on the floor if it contains a public option. Chris Bowers wrote more at Open Left about the merging process in the House and Senate.

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