Textbook Example of How to Deal with the Immigration Issue
I don't have a whole lot of faith in the Establishment Democrats in Washington, but these new Democrats out in the states seem to know how to put their opponent on the defensive:
Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill on Thursday proposed large fines and prison sentences for employers who hire illegal immigrants and charged that incumbent Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., is too cozy with companies that flout hiring laws.
Stepping into a controversy that has divided Congress and many Americans, McCaskill said border security and pursuing those who come to the country illegally are important steps, but that a big part of the solution is cracking down on employers who view illegal immigrants as a cheap labor force.
McCaskill announced her plan in a speech outside the federal courthouse in Springfield. In an interview with The Associated Press, she said current fines and punishment aren't big enough to deter major corporations from exploiting illegal immigrant labor.
"The pattern here is we're not getting serious about cracking down on the people who are hiring the illegal immigrants. I want to fight for the American worker," she said. "Yes, we need to secure the border, yes we need to enforce the law. But the law not only is not being enforced by these employers, it is being ignored."
Under McCaskill's proposal, employers who hire illegal immigrants would face a $10,000 fine per illegal worker and up to six months in jail for a first offense. Penalties would rise to $50,000 per illegal immigrant and no less than a year in jail for a third offense.
McCaskill just missed in her run for governor two years ago, and I think she learned a lot of lessons. She's at the top of the ticket this time in the most high-profile race in the state, and I think putting Talent in that box between the corporate cons that want cheap labor and the anti-immigrant wingnuts that want all of the brown people out of the country is very smart. It puts McCaskill on the side of the worker, which is where Democrats need to be, while expanding the narrative of Republicans beholden to greedy corporate interests (particularly agribusiness, which I imagine plays well in Missouri).
McCaskill came out against the compromise Senate bill on immigration and has been against amnesty, but her focus on the employers is not only the way to actually get results on the hiring of illegal workers, but is also smart politics. Talent is trying to accuse her of hyprocrisy:
McCaskill says she opposes amnesty, but Chrismer claims she contradicted herself earlier this year in an interview with the Columbia Daily Tribune.
In the Tribune story, McCaskill said people who return home and apply legally should get priority, but also said, "I think that we need to look at ways that the people who are here illegally can pay for the crime they've committed without being a further burden on taxpayers."
"When McCaskill realized that most Missourians oppose her amnesty plan and support a border fence, McCaskill changed colors like a chameleon," Chrismer said in a statement.
McCaskill campaign spokeswoman Adrianne Marsh said the Democrat's earlier comments did not endorse amnesty.
Again, I like the way McCaskill presents the issues. By focusing on the "burden on taxpayers," she forces Talent to play on her field, where she is seen as relieving that burden by solving the problem, and he is seen as exacerbating the problem by turning a blind eye to illegal hiring.
Of course, I'd like McCaskill to go further and address the real underlying issue behind immigration, the driving force behind so many people coming to America to seek jobs, which has its roots in the NAFTA passage 12 years ago and the rise in poverty in places like Mexico thereafter. That adds to her argument about the problem being corporations seeking cheap labor. But McCaskill did a lot of things right: 1) She came out with her own plan early, setting the terms of the debate; 2) She framed Talent as a slave to big business interests; 3) She took the Republicans on with what is perceived as their strongest issue, the issue that ended up sinking Francine Busby, for example.
I like McCaskill's chances this November if she keeps this kind of campaign going.