Tuesday’s lead New York Times editorial lambasting the GOP field as fringe and extremist on illegal immigration (“Immigration and the Campaign – President Obama is less than inspiring, but the Republicans have abandoned all principle”) sounded a bit like the paper’s supposedly objective news coverage of the issue, which it insists on calling “immigration,” not “illegal immigration.”
The Republican presidential candidates have not made immigration a focus of their campaigns. But, as they head toward a debate on Wednesday in Arizona, ground zero for anti-immigrant hostility, it is a good time to ask them hard questions about immigration. The odds are bad that they will have sensible answers.
It’s telling that the paper’s left-wing editorial rhetoric on illegal immigration line up with the tropes that emanate from its purportedly balanced news coverage:
Mitt Romney has moved farthest to the fringe. His scheme for fixing immigration is mass expulsion: a fantasy of ridding the country of 11 million unauthorized immigrants by making their lives unbearable. The key to his harsh vision is “self-deportation,” the deceptively bland-sounding policy that he introduced at a debate. It accepts that arresting and expelling so many millions would be impossible -- like deporting the State of Ohio. But it replaces that delusion with another: That people can be made miserable enough to leave on their own.
Reporter Randal Archibold in August 2006: “But this spring, with a commanding lead in the polls, Ms. Napolitano rejected bills from the Republican-dominated Legislature intended to make life harder for illegal residents and the businesses that employ them, questioning the legality and effectiveness of the proposals.”
Reporter Campbell Robertson in October 2011: “The champions of Alabama's far-reaching immigration law have said that it is intended to drive illegal immigrants from the state by making every aspect of their life difficult.”
Alex Kotlowitz in the August 8, 2007 edition of the Times Sunday Magazine: “Over the past two years, more than 40 local and state governments have passed ordinances and legislation aimed at making life miserable for illegal immigrants in the hope that they'll have no choice but to return to their countries of origin. Deportation by attrition, some call it.”
The editorial itself ranged far-and-ride for dubious anecdotes:
Mr. Romney lifted this scheme from a campaign adviser, Kris Kobach, the mastermind of a host of crackdowns that seek to leave unauthorized immigrants not just unable to work, but unable to drive, rent or heat a home, afraid to take children to school or the doctor. In states where “self-deportation” is official policy, the results have been deplorable. In Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County sweeps neighborhoods making mass arrests, and people are afraid to leave home. In Alabama, farm and construction workers have fled by the thousands; tornado victims are afraid to go to a shelter.