"The politics of self-deportation are behind us. Mitt Romney's a good man. He ran in many ways a good campaign. But it was an impractical solution. Quite frankly, it was offensive. Every corner of the Republican Party -- from libertarians to the RNC, House Republicans and the rank-and-file Republican Party member -- is now understanding there has to be an earned pathway to citizenship. That gives us leverage on immigration with our Democratic friends."
--Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Meet the Press
A few things. First, it's good of Lindsey Graham to acknowledge that "self-deportation" was impractical -- and also, bluntly, that it was offensive. That's being very outspoken about your party's standard-bearer in the last election for president. The thing is, though, that it wasn't "offensive" -- it was a joke. Literally. I'm not saying that as an editorial comment, but that it was, in fact, an actual joke. Self-deportation began as a joke by two Mexican-American comedians, Lalo Alcaraz and Esteban Zul, who founded a fake-group, "Hispanics Against Liberal Take-Over" (HALTO) and a fake character, Daniel D. Portado, who was even interviewed on This American Life in 1996 and said, among other things, jokingly:
"We feel that the immigrants are taking too many jobs, are bringing down the quality of life. They're not allowing our young American teenagers the character-building experiences of picking fruit and cleaning hotel beds."
You can read more about it in the Atlantic Wire. Rachel Maddow even had one of the comedians on her show half a year ago talking (and laughing) about it.
And Republicans took it seriously. Calling the proposal "offensive" even misses the point. That's how seriously they took it. They thought it was a real proposal.
But worse, when Lindsey Graham says that Republicans are "now understanding..." the issue and thinks that this actually gives the GOP "leverage" on immigration (!), you have to wonder which part of the universe he's living in. After all, for the past year Republicans have been trying to woo Hispanics by talking about "self-deportation," which must have made them seem like total clueless idiots to that community, and if they "now," only now understand that a path to citizenship (which Democrats have been talking about for that exact same, past year) is going to make them look like leaders, they have bigger troubles that they think. Because you can only become a real leader when grasp reality.
Yes, the joke about "self-deportation" was impractical and is offensive. And it was impractical and offensive for the past year when Mr. Graham didn't speak out against it. Yes, it's hard to do that against your standard-bearer, but it's also hard when you only "now" understand it.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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