Matt Yglesias is skeptical that the Democrats will do as well next month as everyone is predicting, and mentions immigration concerns as a data point. I think he's right--with the elections coming up shortly, Democrats would do well not to forget about immigration. Or rather, they’d better hope the electorate does forget about it and is distracted by other issues. Which is hard when Bush is pushing the issue back into the headlines by signing the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which mandates that a 700-mile fence be built along vulnerable sections of the Mexican border.
The result was the Secure Fence Act of 2006. It cleared Congress on Sept. 29, but Bush's signature was delayed by four weeks to provide Republicans with something fresh to campaign on leading up to the Nov. 7 congressional elections.
Will the immigration issue, which is a net positive in the near term for Republicans, counteract in the minds of voters negative perceptions of the war and general Republican sleaze? Just because the press isn’t covering immigration every day doesn’t mean it’s not still one of the top two or three concerns among middle class voters.
It’s the flip side of the economic issue that Democrats assume favors them. Stagnant wages, ballooning health care costs, and shrinking pensions in the midst of a “booming” economy mean middle class voters feeling the squeeze are casting about for people to blame. Bush and the Republican Congress get a lot of that blame, but so do immigrants. Every time a Democrat talks about how the economy is leaving middle class people behind, many people think “Yeah, if only those *@$& illegals weren’t stealing all our jobs.”
Luckily for Democrats, Bush appears not to have gotten the memo from Rush and Hannity on this point.
"We must reduce pressure on our border by creating a temporary worker plan," Bush said at a signing ceremony attended by Republican congressional leaders and the heads of some government immigration agencies. "Willing workers ought to be matched with willing employers to do jobs Americans are not doing."
. . .
"We must face the reality that millions of illegal immigrants are already here," the president added. "They should not be given an automatic path to citizenship. That is amnesty. I oppose amnesty.
"There is a rational middle ground between granting an automatic path to citizenship for every illegal immigrant and a program of mass deportation, and I look forward to working with Congress to find that middle ground."
Unfortunately for the president, this is not an era of middle ground. By signing the fence bill now, Bush is convincing (non-Cuban) Latinos and other immigrant-sympathetic communities nationwide not to vote for their local Republican candidates—if there was any chance of that by now anyway. Republicans have to hope that conservative voters hear about the fence going up but don’t hear Bush saying “temporary worker plan blah blah blah rational middle ground” because their talk radio overlords have convinced them that this is code for “I love me some Amnesty!”