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Americans Favor Immigration Bill

Monday, 25 June 2007 12:00 AM

When the details are fully explained, an overwhelming majority of Americans favor the immigration bill being debated in the Senate, Ed Goeas, president and CEO of The Tarrance Group, tells me.

The Tarrance Group is a Republican polling and strategy firm that works for Rudy Giuliani, 47 congressmen, 10 senators, and five governors.

Without referring to the Senate bill itself or using terms like "amnesty" that are open to interpretation, the firm polled Americans on whether they would favor its components.

"When we walked through the series of measures that are being proposed, we got 77 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of Democrats, and 70 percent of independents supporting it," says Goeas (pronounced GO-as). "There's not a piece of research I've seen that, if you explain each one of those pieces, you don't get a majority saying they approve it." Several issues are at play, Goeas says.

"One issue is clearly a demand and desire by voters, and I think by politicians, to secure our borders and stop illegal immigration," he says. "The second issue is that we truly need to increase legal immigration to meet our country's economic needs. Any economist worth his or her salt will tell you that having an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent is equivalent to 100 percent employment. Everyone else is in transition."

While many believe that anything short of rounding up the 12 million illegal immigrants already in the U.S. and sending them back home is amnesty, "Amnesty isn't necessarily a reason not to support a solution," Goeas says.

"If you in fact are making them pay a penalty, learn English, have a job, pay taxes, and if they can't show that they've been paying taxes even by a different name, to pay back taxes, to learn English, the overwhelming majority believe that that is not amnesty," Goeas says. "It so often is misportrayed as amnesty."

Interestingly, while Republicans are perceived to be the biggest opponents of the pending proposals, "You actually have a larger group composed of Democrats, a lot of union members, and a lot of the African-American voters being very anti-any kind of pro-immigration," Goeas notes.

However, "Most voters agree that sending them all home is not realistic," Goeas says. "By a small margin, they may prefer attrition versus some path to citizenship as being discussed in the Senate bill. But attrition to be fully effective could be anywhere from eight to 10 years before we've kind of weeded out all these illegal immigrants, which means that you've failed on securing inside our borders."

The larger issue is how the immigration debate will affect the future of the Republican Party and its ability to capture the White House and Congress. As the proportion of Hispanics grows, winning them over to the Republican Party becomes even more critical.

"Bush won 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000." Goeas says. "In 2004, he won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, even though they increased from 9 percent of the total votes cast to 11 percent of the total votes cast. And so of Bush's 3.2 percent margin of victory in 2004, a full 2 percent of it, or over half, came from his increase with the Hispanic vote. In 2006, we dropped to only 30 percent of the Hispanic vote."

What worries Goeas is that "from some surveys, we have seen many of the Hispanics viewing what we as Republicans say about immigration as anti-Hispanic when we talk about these immigrants with the tone and the tenor that we do," Goeas says.

With the CIA's release of documents detailing the agency's abuses in the 1960s and 1970s, the media will be gearing up to suggest that those illegalities are similar to the Bush administration's practices.

The truth is quite the opposite. The CIA's past abuses — all fully revealed in the 1970s — in fact underscore how legal and properly motivated today's actions by the government are. The CIA in those days literally spied on Americans because of their dissident political beliefs, wiretapped reporters to find the source of leaks, broke into homes without having a warrant, incarcerated a defector for no legal reason, engaged in foolish and ill-conceived assassination attempts against foreign leaders, and gave harmful drugs like LSD to subjects without their knowledge or consent.

Many of these activities violated criminal laws. They also demonstrated a lack of focus and competence. Some were just silly, like a plot to get Fidel Castro's beard to fall off in an effort to undermine his authority.

Nearly always ordered or encouraged by presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon, the CIA's actions were not disclosed to Congress because congressional leaders wanted to remain in the dark about questionable CIA activities, giving them deniability.

In contrast, the Bush White House disclosed its aggressive efforts to combat terrorism to key leaders and committees of Congress and to the courts, which have approved of them except in a few cases where judges have disagreed on how enemy combatants should be handled. If the law were clear cut, we would not have split Supreme Court and appeals court decisions.

In the case of the USA Patriot Act, Congress itself enacted the legislation. In the case of coercive interrogation techniques, Congress recently enacted legislation which still allows the president to order such techniques.

Most important, all of the administration's actions have been taken to catch terrorists and protect us — a major reason we have not been attacked in almost six years.

The CIA documents provide a glimpse back into "a very different time and a very different agency," says CIA Director Michael Hayden, who will be releasing the documents this week.

The west wing may be the most prestigious office building in the world, but its occupants rarely have time to do lunch at Washington's fancy restaurants. Instead, aides like Karl Rove and Josh Bolten usually eat takeout from the White House mess at their desks. The food is not cheap: a hamburger is $9, and cappuccino is $3.

Likewise, President Bush almost never goes out for lunch. He usually has a cheeseburger or a grilled cheese sandwich in a dining room off the Oval Office. But Laura Bush enjoys a good meal and often lunches with her friends at places like Café Deluxe, Zola, or Old Ebbitt Grill. Her Secret Service detail sits at nearby tables.

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When the details are fully explained, an overwhelming majority of Americans favor the immigration bill being debated in the Senate, Ed Goeas, president and CEO of The Tarrance Group, tells me. The Tarrance Group is a Republican polling and strategy firm that works for...
Monday, 25 June 2007 12:00 AM
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