Candidates Hop aboard Immigration Issue Illegal Aliens More Resented Now, Polls Say
Bill Lambrecht Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
FROM HAITIAN REFUGEES to welfare reform, immigration is swiftly becoming a flashpoint in American politics.
Questions about non-citizens once were the domain of border towns and the few states that absorbed their costs. But as Americans turn inward and worry mainly about problems at home, immigration is growing more important in domestic as well as foreign policy.
Candidates mapping election strategy have begun to use the immigration issue, following polls that show increased resentment against illegal aliens.
The harsh tenor of this dialogue led Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., to remark last week that the debate over immigration is producing "future George Wallaces" in this country.
"You see what's happening in this country on immigration policy. It's turning very mean and very frustrating," said Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Obey, who has headed the Foreign Operations subcommittee, is among the Democrats who have criticized U.S. policy toward Haiti. He asserts that the policy has become an immigration debate that is drowning out the objective of restoring democracy to Haiti.
Obey views the immigration debate as corrosive to the United States, and he adds: "Our concern ought to be how you change the situation so that it does not impact us here in this country."
Obey's solution? He believes the U.S. ought to orchestrate an invasion of Haiti.
President Bill Clinton, in a major change of policy, announced Sunday that the United States would, within weeks, stop returning Haitian boat people to their homeland without hearing their claims for asylum.
The immigration debate has spread from the foreign policy hearing rooms to the halls of Congress. The Republican Party's main welfare reform proposal in the House - a bill with 162 co-sponsors - would accumulate $21 billion of a projected $34 billion in savings over five years by ending payments to most non-citizens.
"The Problem: Too Much Welfare For Too Many Immigrants," begins the Republicans' analysis of their plan. The analysis goes on to say that 11 percent of all welfare recipients and 20 percent of elderly who get welfare are not American citizens.
Last week, in a test skirmish on welfare reform, the House Ways and Means Committee narrowly defeated an amendment that would have cut off benefits to those who did not obtain U.S. citizenship after one year in this country. The proposal drew bipartisan support, suggesting that Congress may be receptive to cutting benefits down the line. Alarm In Arizona, California
The debate also is sounding in states. Arizona Gov. Fife Symington, a Republican, sued the federal government last week for $121 million for Arizona's costs of imprisoning illegal aliens. In April, California asked for $377 million in a similar suit demanding payments from the federal government for welfare, health care, education and state services. …