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The Ghost of Barbara Jordan

How different would the immigration debate look today had Barbara Jordan lived? It’s a question frequently pondered by those of us who believe the answer to every problem concerning immigration isn’t necessarily more immigration.

Jordan was the first woman elected to Congress from Texas and the first Southern black female ever elected to the House. She compiled a similar record of firsts in Texas state politics and was active in the civil rights movement. But Jordan capped her career chairing the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform.

The commission’s vision of immigration reform was very different than the “comprehensive” variety pushed by a bipartisan gaggle of senators. To understand how different, consider Jordan’s contention in early 1995 congressional testimony [1] that “deportation is crucial.”

“Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave,” Jordan said. “The top priorities for detention and removal, of course, are criminal aliens. But for the system to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process.”

change_me

Today’s comprehensive immigration reformers think it is an abomination to deport anyone but criminal aliens. The Obama administration has celebrated [2] such deportations while announcing [3] that most of the remaining illegal immigrant population isn’t an enforcement priority.

In all, the Jordan Commission favored reducing legal immigration by one-third, moving towards more skill-based immigration and away from chain migration, and enhanced enforcement. One need not support all its recommendations—I oppose national ID cards, for instance—to see that serious alternatives to the Gang of Eight approach were once seriously contemplated by such mainstream Democrats as former President Bill Clinton.

Not long after Jordan’s untimely death in January 1996, the effects of her absence were felt. Liberals could not say no to immigration, whatever its impact on the working poor. Economic conservatives decided her commission’s worksite enforcement mechanisms were insufficiently pro-business; Beltway social conservatives regarded its changes to family reunification as insufficiently pro-family.

Since then, the country has been plagued by the notion that racism is the only possible motivation for reducing immigration or enforcing immigration laws. There were once courageous liberals like Jordan and to a lesser extent Theodore Hesburgh to whom it was impossible to ascribe such motives who were willing to argue otherwise.

Jordan observed that “it is both a right and a responsibility of a democratic society to manage immigration so that it serves the national interest,” which includes the interests of citizens of every race, and naturalized citizens as well as natives and the “nativists” supposedly advocating on their behalf. The shift from Jordan to Joe Arpaio as the public face of immigration enforcement made a more nuanced restrictionist case even more difficult to make.

Perhaps Jordan’s liberalism would have merely served those making the bizarre argument that conservative immigration restrictionists aren’t really conservative [4], that the pro-choice views of the obscure John Tanton [5] somehow negate Tom Tancredo’s 100 percent pro-life ratings [6] from the National Right to Life Committee.

Somehow, the liberalism of Chuck Schumer, Bob Mendendez, the National Council of La Raza, and the Ford Foundation never negates the conservatism of Republicans who work with these lawmakers and organizations to promote comprehensive immigration reform.

But it’s at least as likely that we would actually have an immigration debate rather than what has largely been a monologue, with the possibility of some federal legislators being able to quietly block a comprehensive bill lingering in the background as the only source of suspense.

Critics of uninterrupted mass immigration are currently relying upon lawmakers like Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions and Texas GOP Rep. Lamar Smith. Despite their considerable talents, both men are near-perfect foils for immigration increasers and amnesty advocates.

It’s possible that someone like Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican whose Cuban ancestry is similar to Marco Rubio’s while his take on the Gang of Eight machinations is markedly different, could shake up the prevailing narrative.

But nothing could challenge the conventional wisdom more than the reminding Americans that one could march against Jim Crow and advocate more moderate levels of immigration. A figure who could compellingly make that case is sadly missing from our national politics.

W. James Antle III is editor of the Daily Caller News Foundation and author of the newly released Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? [7]

31 Comments (Open | Close)

31 Comments To "The Ghost of Barbara Jordan"

#1 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 8, 2013 @ 12:57 am

I think you just made the case. Here the issue id clear. The numbers are relatively straight forward. Immigration that supports the use of illegal immigrats is damging to the economy and legalizing the system will not improve our economic outlook.

Conservatives will gain nothing by it.

The costs in both directions: supporting and underground economy oe legalizing the same continues to cost more than it benefits the country as a whole.

#2 Comment By R. J. Stove On May 8, 2013 @ 3:01 am

A sensitive and informative article, well worth any reader’s time.

#3 Comment By William Dalton On May 8, 2013 @ 11:33 am

Barbara Jordan was an impressive woman, as a lawyer and in Congress. But she represented an African American constituency in a district which was one of the first to experience the wave of Latin American immigration. The two groups did not share the same interests. One can wax philosophical about human rights and justice, but in end politicians take care of their own. Barbara Jordan did that when she was an advocate for the Civil Rights Act, and she did that when she argued for restrictions on immigration.

#4 Comment By Adam On May 8, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

An important reminder that labeling and bashing one side or the other overlooks the nuances of the individual. Toeing the party line has become more important than actual thought.

#5 Comment By David Helveticka On May 8, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

Isn’t it suspicious that the same Republican Party who pretends to support an end to unrestrained immigration are the same ones who support paying for Bush2’s wars by cutting Social Security and Medicare while giving tax cuts to the rich?

They pretend to support their constituents’ views by mouthing platitudes about “illegal immigration”, while encouraging the very unrestrained immigration that is creating such resentment among what remains of Nixon’s ‘Silent Majority” by sitting on their hands when it comes to any meaningful legislation to rein in the invasion of our country.

Of course, the more their constituents see more and more immigrants pouring into their neighborhoods, they will be more inclined to vote Republican and Republicans are free to put the US into more foreign wars, to do nothing about outsourcing jobs by US corporations, and cut taxes for the rich while cutting Social Security and Medicare.

Nice game they are playing…and it just proves that American democracy has failed…and “conservatives” have been the hand maidens of that failure!

#6 Comment By Fran Macadam On May 8, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

“Since then, the country has been plagued by the notion that racism is the only possible motivation for reducing immigration or enforcing immigration laws. There were once courageous liberals like Jordan and to a lesser extent Theodore Hesburgh to whom it was impossible to ascribe such motives who were willing to argue otherwise.”

I’m not a liberal and liberal solutions are always heavy with bigger government, more control by bureaucracy and a loss of individual freedom. No immigrant problem, in my opinion, is worth losing any bit of our rapidly diminishing individual liberty. It is with chagrin I hear people who are quite willing to trade off liberty and settle for a police state, if it will just get rid of all the damned immigrants. One can’t help but think this does bear resemblance to some of the race-based fascism we fought a major hot war with.

Unfortunately, conservatives have never been strong on redressing violations of civil rights for minorities, and there is a sizable minority who conflate their open racial prejudice with a purported conservatism and feel the Republican Party is their only viable chance for influence.

Additionally, every time there is a “crack-down” on undocumented immigrants, those who followed the legal path also find themselves saddled with ever-more draconian restrictions and penalties, which tends to give the legitimate impression that the “illegals” is a convenient issue with which to provide cover to attack all immigrants.

Yes we need more rationality in the debate, but conservatives don’t seem to be generating all that much light, either. It’s much like health care, where they propose nothing credible, except draconian solutions.

#7 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 8, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

“One can’t help but think this does bear resemblance to some of the race-based fascism we fought a major hot war with.”

I don’t think there’s much traction in comparing those of opposed to easing immigration with Nazi’s. At least for me, I think I am several generations away from advocating Concentration camps.

And the rationale is very simple. We nave too many immigrants feeding off the country’s diminished resources. The stock market is not the economy. We should take some stock of our own —

The evidence is clear we lose in every measure by staying the course and/or granting any amnesty initiatives or easing the matter. The evidence is the answer . . . and most of the evidence is negative for us on the matter.

#8 Comment By made in usa On May 8, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

” It is with chagrin I hear people who are quite willing to trade off liberty and settle for a police state, if it will just get rid of all the damned immigrants. One can’t help but think this does bear resemblance to some of the race-based fascism we fought a major hot war with.”

I think you’ve got it backwards, Fran. The presence of immigrants, illegals in particular, is a major contributor to the build-up of the police state. There almost certainly would have been no 9/11 if visa violators had been tracked down and deported. 9/11 was the best friend the police state ever had. And how many police state measures will be justified in the name of the latest immigrant bombing in Boston? The security industry vultures are already salivating over the surveillance camera profits alone …

#9 Comment By Avi Marranazo On May 8, 2013 @ 4:21 pm

This is a classic example of how, according to the new dispensation, non-Whites (in this case an African American) are allowed to pursue their racial / ethnic interests, while it is wholly illegitimate and indeed pathological for European Americans to do so. That’s why Ms. Jordan played such an important role in the debate. She could take a sensible position and not be called a “racist”. That epithet is solely served for White people.

#10 Comment By Fran Macadam On May 8, 2013 @ 5:35 pm

“The presence of immigrants, illegals in particular, is a major contributor to the build-up of the police state.”

Only if you believe it is a valid response. To the man who has a gun, everyone looks like a target?

Honestly, I think this is along the lines of, “if there had been no Jews, there would have been no Nazis” …

“…police state measures will be justified in the name of the latest immigrant bombing”

Even our police state measures… are their fault. We have nothing to do with it. No choice. Immigrants == totalitarianism. Ipso facto.

This means anything and everything propels us to totalitarianism, and we have no choice. Collective punishment of the innocent (banned by those quaint Geneva Conventions) is the latest immorality we were forced into. Thanks Dick Cheney and “the dark side.”

“There almost certainly would have been no 9/11 if visa violators had been tracked down”

But the attackers had valid visas, so were not even among the 11 million undocumented but indigenous braceros from Mexico… you know, the millions Tancredo said were here to rob our families and rape our wives.

“The latest immigrant bombing”

That seems to associate immigrants as a class with bombing.

Sounds about like the immigrant labor scares after World War I when the robber barons got the government to pass the draconian anti-speech laws now resurrected by the Obama Administration to prosecute truth tellers and whistle-blowers.

So what about the latest native-born American bombings? How do we exile all of those guilty by relation or race or whatever ethnic group they belong to – and to where? Expand Guantanamo to all of Cuba?

So… let me get this straight. If I am an immigrant, any immigrant at all, America becoming a police state, I have contributed to it, just by my existence.

Or, is this strictly on the base of race and class.

#11 Comment By Fran Macadam On May 8, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

“I don’t think there’s much traction in comparing those of opposed to easing immigration with Nazi’s.”

But to deal with immigrants the way they want, people here have stated that a police state is an acceptable trade-off.

Strictly speaking fascism doesn’t have to be racist; as Mussolini put it, it is when there isn’t cigarette paper’s thickness between government and corporate power.

Arguably, we are where government policy and corporate interests coincide perfectly, and that has been purchased, not voted on.

Now if people are troubled too much by those who don’t look or talk like them, in a period of distress engineered by financial elites for their own profit, and can be made to direct their hatred to that even more politically helpless class, whose interests does that serve?

It allows the elites even more power to suppress dissent, and they even gain support for doing so.

America already incarcerates 25% of the world’s prison population, with 4% of the world population. Don’t we have a government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich? It’s only our unhelpful national myths that prevent us from seeing just what our government really is becoming – something against all the values the Constitution used to be able to uphold, before it was put into abeyance. That isn’t something non-voting immigrants did to us, the people we voted for did it to us. Let me emphasis – not to the immigrants, BUT TO US.

Moreover, like director/actor Clint Eastwood’s mildly racist retired autoworker character in Gran Torino, we need to come to see what he realized while his neighborhood changed, taken over by the Asian H’Mong, and while American governance tilted to the banksters:

“My God, I have more in common with these immigrants.”

#12 Comment By Christopher On May 8, 2013 @ 9:52 pm

Avi,

That is the typical rhetorical and logical fallacy employed by those who seek to equate a history of social exclusion rooted in white supremacy and a belief in black inferiority with attempts by the victimized group to assert its worth and dignity. No one is saying that European Americans cannot pursue their ethnic interests – in fact, they have been doing exactly that since the first explorers set foot on the continent.

#13 Comment By ElitecommInc. On May 8, 2013 @ 11:23 pm

The current prison population in the US is 2 million. I am not sure why that matters to immigration unless we are talking about the number of illegals immigrants in the system and how much it costs to house them. But that does not seem to be the thrust of your advance.

That two million is just over a half percent at 0.5714% of the entire population. That we have one of the most effecient and effective law enforcement protocols on the planet (despite it serious problems) is not news. The 2 billion dollars spent on the 400,000 illegal immigrants in prisons is telling. Ohh and that 400,000 is 20% of the overall prison rate. So the number of US citizens in the system is roughly 1,600,000. How those are about 25% of the entire global prison population is related to immigration of an illegal nature, I am unclear, except deporting the 400, 000 would certainly be some relief. I don’t know what the 4% represents.

We can certainly discuss the pitifiul state or representative government and their continue support of a policy the country — does not want.

#14 Comment By quaker78 On May 8, 2013 @ 11:26 pm

Um Christopher when a black congresswoman can say things about immigration that a white congressman can’t say without being accused by people like you of being racist then yes whites’ ability to promote its interest are being abridged. It is you you wishes to exclude by equating objection to immigration with white supremism. By your logic Barbara Jordan is a black supremicist have the courage to identify her as such. Racial supremicim must be confronted if it is real, and by your logic it is real. Not only that it has apparently been cast into at least one bronze statue.

#15 Comment By ElitecommInc. On May 8, 2013 @ 11:30 pm

Your attack on the your fellow citizens who challenge this policy is continually linked to racist assignments. That certainly stifles debate. But I am curious why you are not supportive of empowering immigrants within their homelands. The nation of Mexico has a formal policy of support for sending citizens they do not wish to a part of the political force in Mexico elsewhere. I understand there is a strategy there as old as the vengeance over the Mexican-Amrican conflict. But why aren’t you spouting your protest against the Mexican authorities and those Mexicans who bow down to the tyrrany of hoisting our citizens on the shoulders of others. Mexico is notba poor country.

I don’t know if you have noticed but Mexicans legal or otherwise in the United states are not suppressed.

#16 Comment By ElitecommInc. On May 8, 2013 @ 11:47 pm

Citizens of these United States are entitled to the protections guranteed them in the Constitution. While others are certainly of value for fair treatment they are not citizens and nothing beyond safe passage home are they so entitled — certainly not the legal skills of US lawyers at the expense of those 1 million 6 hundred thousand, any number of whom suffered mightily at the hands of a system in need of repair — despite its effeciency.

but if it requires a police state mentality to bring some order to the mess of immigration —

if they feared the law — they would be home. I am unafrai of the ‘police state’ trope. It’s designd to paint a rather unflattering portrait of people, who like me — would the US me’s to come first.

#17 Comment By ElitecommInc. On May 8, 2013 @ 11:47 pm

So to the ‘police state advance, I say.

If that’s what it takes.

#18 Comment By ElitecommInc. On May 8, 2013 @ 11:49 pm

I stand with Barbara on this issue. Take it up with her.

#19 Comment By Sam On May 9, 2013 @ 10:59 am

Christopher, I’m not sure where your attention has been turned for the past 50 years, but founding stock (European) Americans have been and are allowing themselves to be eclipsed and displaced in the country we built. Any White person who mentions this fact is immediately hectored, harassed and censored. A case in point is one of the founding editors of this magazine.

That’s why it’s nice to have allies who are at least allowed to state the obvious.

#20 Comment By Dee On May 10, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

This is like saying that if JFK or Martin Luther King were still around they would not favor same sex marriage.

I believe that the old-time common sense liberals have just about all (99%) converted to being liberals without common sense, totally intimidated by gays and Hispanics.

I am, therefore, sure that if Barbara Jordan were still around, she would have become a liberal without common sense and would want to invite half the world to come illegally to the US.

#21 Comment By Easton On May 10, 2013 @ 10:07 pm

and right off the bat the author of the piece loses me with this: One need not support all its recommendations—I oppose national ID cards, for instance—to see that serious alternatives to the Gang of Eight approach were once seriously contemplated by such mainstream Democrats as former President Bill Clinton.

How pray tell can you be against National ID cards when we already have, in fact, a national id card called a Social Security card. Would it be so hard to make a social security card biometric? Add a picture and a fingerprint? Without it we have a policy of if you are white, you are alright, if you are brown send them down. There are no serious alternatives to serious e-verify implementation and a bio metric id card. NONE.

by the way as I found the whole thing to be absurd there is this. My kids got their new passports (you can’t renew kids ones) my wife and I went early without them but they had to be there because they wanted to make sure the picture I gave them looked like the kids, but absent any other photo id (all I had were birth certificates) what was to say the children I brought there were my own kids and not illegal aliens? yes, the pictures matched the children I brought there. So what? I took the pictures at Walgreens.

The system is rife with potential for fraud. I could have gotten other children passports and an effective citizenship today for them, all I would have not let happen is my own children to travel. then those other kids could have moved to California and go to school there with “friends” ie their parents.

until we get national biometric id cards it will be all bs.

#22 Comment By cristo52 On May 11, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

To the Left, including the Black Left, it’s as if she never existed.

#23 Comment By David Farrar On May 11, 2013 @ 4:53 pm

Here’s another one of Dr. Jordan’s truisms that would have precluded Obama from taking the oath of office of the presidency of the United States had he been elected in the early 1960s:

“There are three ways to become a citizen, as you know: by choice, naturalization; blood, have American parents; and birth in this country.”

ex animo
davidfarrar

#24 Comment By TheTownCrier On May 11, 2013 @ 8:38 pm

FINALLY! Someone besides TheTownCrier wrote an article about the wonderful Barbara Jordan!
““Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave.”
[8]

#25 Comment By M_Young On May 12, 2013 @ 11:05 am

“How pray tell can you be against National ID cards when we already have, in fact, a national id card called a Social Security card. ”

Amen to that,

#26 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 13, 2013 @ 2:46 am

“I am, therefore, sure that if Barbara Jordan were still around, she would have become a liberal without common sense and would want to invite half the world to come illegally to the US.”

Then you don’t know Barbara Jordon

—- You don’t have a clue

#27 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 13, 2013 @ 2:53 am

This contention makes little sense.

“The system is rife with potential for fraud.” All systems have a potential for fraud. I have a security door, that door has two locks and a latch. I have old fashioned steel front door with obe lock.

Now I have little doubt that a certain number of people could find a way in. No doubt they have. But you seem to suggest because there is a potential fro break-in — any security at all is unwarranted.

I am not interested in the whining. There is no evidence that voter ID has prevented anyone from voting. In fact, a valid ID could have prevented much of the disqualification by name that went on in Florida.

#28 Comment By cdugga On May 13, 2013 @ 11:01 am

The arguments over culture, language, ethnicity, claims of racism and race baiting, are distractions to progressive policy both dems and republicans want. And even the economics of immigration are debatable on costs vs benefits if viewed honestly. Continueing that honesty thing, logical minds might have some trouble with the morality of those allowing people to work for years and reaping the benefits of that while pointing fingers at the government for not stopping immigration.
Labeling immigrants criminals is below any debate aiming to develop immigration policy, and has no place in reasonable discussion. The police state will or will not be more or less powerful whether there are more or less working immigrants granted legal status. So that is not an issue except as a mental exercise to distract from the real political divide. That gets us to the real question of amnesty for the millions of immigrants we already have working here that divides, or is being used to divide, american opinion. And by the way, they may work for some people and in place of others, but I have worked by mexican nationals searching for oil in the southwest and work beside chinese, indians and middle easterners. They aint criminals. They are not citizens able to vote either. Immigration political debate should be focused on the fairness of a democratic government accepting the workers it employs as legal. The requirements should be focused on the economics of immigrants with latitude for fairness. Enforcement should focus on employment. We can dispense with the unskilled labor and farm worker labels since they are not accurate in the big picture of who our immigrant population is. Go ahead and build walls with doors that only open out, but forget about serious discussions about rounding them up as criminals. Documenting our immigrant workers is no more police state than social security. Progressive debate can only move towards what we are going to do about immigrant workers already here working, and dispense with the idea of rounding them up as criminals and driving them to the border.
I might ask if we can come up with policy, on anything you want to name, which can get past the house of primary obtusity and distractive disingenuity. That is the starting point politically, and where the ghost of Barbara Jordan haunts. If we cannot come up with a legislative initiative that will get through the house, then why continue discussion on the issue of amnesty? Here at TAC we should expect for discussion and debate to move beyond feeding each other bananas and then playing monkey toss with the result.

#29 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 13, 2013 @ 4:27 pm

“Continueing that honesty thing, logical minds might have some trouble with the morality of those allowing people to work for years and reaping the benefits of that while pointing fingers at the government for not stopping immigration.”

I would need clarification here. Who is it that is complaining while reaping benefits? And I am unclear what these bebefits are. Suppose I oppose a moratorium on any immigrants say for five years. What unique befits are being provided to me that I should cease expecting the government to enforce the law.

#30 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 13, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

“Labeling immigrants criminals is below any debate aiming to develop immigration policy, . . .”

In addressing the honesty morality failing you seem to suggest.

I think it is dishonest to make arguments about immigration when immigration in general is not in question. The issue for most people concerned is illegal immigrants. To couch the issue as you and so many others constantly do is to create a faux racism issue which is not at the issue.

In addition, we currently have an immigration policy. The other disengenuous turn of phrase are those that say ‘we need an immigration policy.” Suggesting to the masses we don’t have one. Hence the calls to create a one.

On the question of morality these two tactics are just a few that make discussion convoluted and misguiding.

#31 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 13, 2013 @ 4:38 pm

“Labeling immigrants criminals is below any debate aiming to develop immigration policy, and has no place in reasonable discussion. The police state will or will not be more or less powerful whether there are more or less working immigrants granted legal status. So that is not an issue except as a mental exercise to distract from the real political divide.”

In all honesty, if you cross the border illegal and reside in the country without having followed the legal process, you are a criminal. Any activity that you so engage as noncitizen is al illegal act. Those who hire and support the same are entering into a criminal enterprise to defraud the US of monies and opportunities reserved for citizens.