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The Immigration Cudgel

The House GOP has actually managed to do the right thing on immigration this year: nothing. That's because it is, and always has been, an utter non-problem.

With unemployment below 5 percent, it can't credibly be claimed that immigrants "took 'er jibs." And if too many Mexicans are undocumented in America and living off the grid, it's because we haven't provided them with a reasonable, legal way to be in our country.

There are definitely reforms that are needed to our immigration system, but they're along the lines of President Bush's guest-worker program, not building a wall. There's never been a crisis, save the political crisis created by Tom Tancredo and Lou Dobbs.

And as the Wall Street Journal editorial page writes this morning, the only people who are likely to get bitten by this "crisis" are the House Republicans who ginned it up and then decided to punt:

Looking at House Republicans who are vulnerable this year, we can't find a single one who will lose because of support for President Bush's comprehensive immigration reform. That isn't Heather Wilson's problem in New Mexico; she always has a tough race and favors both border security and a guest worker program. Chris Shays also won't save his seat by rallying the bluebloods in Greenwich, Connecticut, against their Mexican maids and construction workers. On the other hand, J.D. Hayworth could lose his seat in Arizona despite taking his anti-immigration riff to any radio or TV show that will have him.

What might well cost all of them their seats is the growing perception that this Congress hasn't achieved much of anything. If Republicans want a precedent, they might recall what happened to Democrats who failed to pass a crime bill in the summer of 1994. Already in trouble on taxes at the time, Democrats looked feckless on crime and health care and went down to crashing defeat. Immigration could do the same for Republicans, who have been flogging the issue for months as a grave national problem. Doing nothing about it now risks alienating even those conservatives who merely want more border police.

In fairness to the House Republicans, the immigration road show they are planning to put on might just work. And maybe they can blame the Democrats (somehow leaving out Bush and McCain) for the stalemate.

But if using the issue as a political cudgel without actually doing anything is their plan -- well, that just highlights what a nasty little bit of racial pandering and scapegoating this is and has always been.