Immigration reform is inexorably inching into politics. Just look at the candidates running strong campaigns for federal and state office by promoting major changes to the immigration status quo.
North Carolina, overwhelmed by illegal aliens, has two stalwart candidates.
Republican State Senator Fern Shubert is one of five gubernatorial primary candidates on the July 20th ballot vying for the chance to unseat incumbent Democrat Governor Michael Easley in November.
Shubert, endorsed by of the 9-11 Families for a Secure America has made a key talking point out of the continued ease with which illegal aliens can get North Carolina driver's licenses.
Shubert tells me that, despite claims from Easley that driver's license requirements have been tightened by a February directive from his office, the opposite is true.
Here according to Shubert, is the recent history of North Carolina driver's license requirements:
"Prior to 9-11, North Carolina law said that license applicants must provide a social security number and proof of residence, but the Attorney General's office (the position was then held by Easley) told DMV to ignore the law. Some of us tried to tighten up the rules for issuing licenses. Instead, right after 9-11, the Democrats put language in the budget that actually made the law worse than it was before 9-11.
"Before 9-11, aliens couldn't use a Taxpayer Identification Number to get a license but S1005 made that legal. Before 9-11, matricula cards weren't mentioned in the law. S1005 said the matricula was 'a reasonably reliable' indicator of residence and included it with the other proofs that were acceptable.
"Most bizarre of all, S1005 added a provision that required the department to permit any applicant who had NO proof of residence to sign an affidavit and use that as proof of residence. DMV will give any applicant an affidavit to sign on the spot."
Peter Gadiel, speaking on behalf of the 9-11 Families, said that Shubert won the group's support because she is the only candidate running on a strong immigration reform platform. Shubert, in addition to her efforts to expose driver's license fraud, is speaking out to raise awareness among citizens that illegal immigration directly impacts jobs and wages.
Disappointingly but not surprisingly, the major state's major dailies, the Charlotte Observer (Contact Chairman and Publisher Pete Ridder at firstname.lastname@example.org) and the News and Observer (contact editor email@example.com and political reporter Lynn Bonner at firstname.lastname@example.org) give Shubert scant coverage.
"I don't expect things to really heat up until after July 4th," Shubert said. "But it would be nice if the press got involved in some meaningful way. How can the press claim to report when it doesn't report the most important issue—illegal immigration—in North Carolina? And the truth is that Easley has never worked to make North Carolina safe from illegal immigration's many threats. I will."
One of Shubert's many admirers is Vernon Robinson, also a primary candidate on July 20th. "Shubert is a great American," Robinson told me.
Tancredo considers Robinson's election to Congress to be so important that he is spending June 6, 7 and 8 in North Carolina appearing at "Immigration Town Hall" meetings. They will speak at eight events in eight cities over the three days.
"For a Congressman to spend three days helping out a candidate is unheard of," Robinson said during my interview with him. "Usually, they just fly in and fly out."
Robinson has North Carolina buzzing about his aggressive position on illegal immigration. In a 60-second radio ad that focused on illegal aliens from Mexico, Robinson put forward his feelings.
An announcer reads while the theme of "The Twilight Zone" plays in the background:
"The aliens are here, but they didn't come in a spaceship. They've filled our criminal courtrooms and clogged our schools ... They sponge off the American taxpayer ... they've even taken over the DMV. These aliens commit heinous crimes ... You walk into a McDonald's restaurant to order a Big Mac, and find to your horror that the employees don't speak English."
To hammer Robinson's point home, the ad's disclaimer was made in Spanish: "Yo, gringo. Robinson por congreso." (Spanish Disclaimer Doesn't Fly, By Lynn Bonner and Dan Kane, Charlotte New-Observer, Jun 2, 2004)
WSJS AM, the largest conservative talk station in the Winston-Salem area, pulled the ads because, according to the station's senior vice president and marketing manager Tom Hamilton none of his mostly English-speaking listeners could understand it—and perhaps worried about its meaning. (Note: the station pulled all the other candidates' ads, apparently out of a sense of fair play.)
"That," Robinson told me, "makes my point exactly. By airing a Spanish language ad, we highlighted the fact that 90 percent-plus ... of the primary electorate couldn't understand it. Our ad proves that English must be the official language of the United States."
Robinson likes to summarize his position on illegal immigration this way:
I spoke with Ron Woodward of the activist group NCListen about the reaction in North Carolina to the vigorous immigration reform platforms set forth by Shubert and Robinson.
"There is no question that immigration reform resonates in North Carolina. Remember the Raleigh News and Observer poll in November 2003 that showed that 73% of all residents think illegal aliens even if working should be deported? That percentage may even be higher today. Fern Shubert and Vernon Robinson are doing outstanding jobs of getting the message out to the voters and showing them how unchecked immigration adversely effects all aspects of life in North Carolina."
Right now, Shubert in the middle of the pack; Robinson is given a good chance to win. But the real point is that the issue of immigration is finally being raised.
In an interesting side bar, both Shubert and Robinson told me that they felt the White House's foolish amnesty/guest worker plan would come back to haunt Bush in November.
As Shubert and Robinson travel across North Carolina, both see an erosion of support for Bush compared to 2000.
Now if only Bush could read the same tea leaves regarding illegal immigration that Shubert and Robinson have, the president just might be able to hang on in November.
But if Bush doesn't make a public statement backing off amnesty, he may be writing his presidential memoir four years earlier than he anticipated.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.