June 9, 2006

Chafee and Laffey on Immigration

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee's campaign is accusing Steve Laffey of offering "contradictory positions" on immigration policy...

In an article in the Washington newspaper, The Hill, Steve Laffey announced that he would have opposed the recent immigration bill, despite the fact that it has been supported by President Bush and leading Republicans in the Senate. In The Hill and other publications, Steve Laffey has offered contradictory positions on this contentious issue.
Senator Chafee's criticism of Mayor Laffey's immigration stance breaks down into two parts.

1. The Chafee campaign is critical of Mayor Laffey’s 2005 decision to have the City of Cranston accept ID cards issued by the Mexican and Guatemalan governments as valid identification...

In April of 2005, Laffey announced that the City of Cranston would begin accepting an identification cards issued by embassies for the nations of Mexico and Guatemala, used extensively by illegal immigrants in the US that helps them obtain drivers licenses and government services.
According to the April 2005 Projo article cited by the Chafee campaign, the knock against consular identification cards is that they can be too easily forged...
In 2003, officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and at the Homeland Security Department have testified before Congress that the cards, if fraudulently obtained, can be used to gain access to other documentation -- such as U.S. drivers' licenses. There have been several failed attempts in Congress to enact a nationwide ban on the cards.
The Chafee camapign believes acceptance of consular ID is not consistent with a position of "strict" immigration enforcement.

In the aforementioned Hill article, Laffey campaign spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik defends Mayor Laffey's decision…

Soloveichik pointed out that the Justice Department has permitted the use of the cards, and she said they can be useful for temporary legal immigrants and also for police identifying illegal immigrants.
2. The second charge made by the Chafee campaign is that Mayor Laffey has “flip-flopped” his position on the rules that should exist for naturalizing (or not naturalizing) illegal immigrants currently in the US…
Laffey now claims that he would not extend citizenship to illegal immigrants
The “now” implies that Mayor Laffey has changed his position. However, the references provided don’t sustain this charge. Creation of a “guest worker” program for foreign nationals and setting naturalization rules for guest workers are distinct and separable issues. That Mayor Laffey has been consistent in his support of a guest worker program is not contested, while his position towards naturalizing guest workers, or any other illegal aliens, is not addressed in either reference from 2005 cited by the Chafee camp as contradicting the 2006 Hill article.

3. The Hill article also provides us with Mayor Laffey’s criticism of Senator Chafee’s immigration record…

In Rhode Island, Republican primary challenger Steve Laffey has singled out Chafee for being the only Republican to vote for an amendment to the immigration bill that would have allowed 12 million illegal immigrants to remain in the country and streamlined the legalization process.
The amendment that Senator Chafee voted for would have done away with the 3-tier Martinez-Hagel compromise(*) at the heart of the Senate immigration bill and 1) granted immediate amnesty to illegal immigrants in the U.S. as of January 1, 2006 and 2) placed illegal immigrants in the U.S. as of January 1, 2006 on an immediate path to citizenship.

Mayor Laffey also criticized Senator Chafee for his vote against another amendment regarding social security that failed by just one vote...

[Mayor Laffey] said Chafee’s votes on that amendment and against another amendment, which would have prevented legalized immigrants from collecting Social Security benefits for work they did as illegal immigrants, show just how far left Chafee has shifted.

Laffey spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said Laffey would have voted against the overall bill.

In response, Chafee campaign spokesman Ian Lang defends the Senator's overall record on immigration…
Chafee spokesman Ian Lang countered by noting that Chafee’s stance on immigration is similar to President Bush’s and that the final bill makes the legalization process sufficiently difficult.
Given that Mayor Laffey is on record opposing the current Senate immigration bill, but also supports creation of a guest-worker program, it would be useful to know how the Mayor believes the current bill needs to be changed to be made into good law.

(*)The "Martinez-Hagel compromise" is the name for the provision of the Senate immigration bill which, if made into law, 1) will make illegal immigrants who have been in the US for 5 or more years eligible for immediate amnesty 2) will make illegal immigrants who have been in the United States between 2 and 5 years eligible for amensty if they first return to a legal point of entry into the US and 3) require illegal immigrants who have been here for less than 2 years to leave the country before qualifying for any "guest worker" program.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

The idea of giving amnesty of any sort to illegals is unconscionable. Giving citizenship rights to these lawbreakers while at the same time taking away our own freedoms by warrantless searches, jettisoning of habeas corpus, and warrantless phone tapping is not only contradictory but runs counter to our nation's founding principles.

The criticism against Laffey for supporting consular ID cards shows a complete lack of knowledge of how illegals operate. All it takes is a few hundred dollars for a phony social security number and they are now ready for issuance of drivers licenses. The majority of illegals in this country possess valid drivers licenses that were in essence fraudently obtained. At least the consular ID is a legally-obtained document.

We need to stop this torrent of illegal border crossing if for no other reason than national security. How hard can it be for terrorists to land by boat in some country such as Belize, drive up to the Mexican border, and then just walk across our border.

How can we reconcile our country's need for millions of laborers and the national security implications of turning a blind eye towards a soft border with Mexico? The solution is simple: A guest worker program such as the one advocated by Laffey. At least this way we know who is actually in the country, lower end jobs will still get filled, and poor Mexicans will still have a chance to better themselves.

And if companies don't want to bother with the paperwork hassle, then let them hire far-less-motivated American workers at twice the price.

Posted by: bountyhunter at June 9, 2006 6:14 PM

I still don't know how to resolve the issuance of consular ID cards with the mayor's assertion that he represents a sound immigration policy.

While I recognize that just about anyone who calls themself a Republican would be a stronger voice against illegal immigration than Senator Chafee, this is the one policy area where I have serious concerns over the mayor's position.

Bountyhunter has provided a good case for a guest worker program and the need to secure our borders for national security reasons. However by justifying consular ID cards by saying "At least the consular ID is a legally-obtained document" does not address the problem of illegals. In fact, I would argue that it legitimizes them.

I could be wrong in my understanding, however it seems that by documenting illegal immigrants, you have begun to legitimize them, which only strengthens pro-amnisty arguments and detract from our ability to impose penalties on known law-breakers.

While I agree with the mayor on most points, it seems that his ID program was a mistake. And unless the mayor is able to offer a definitive counter-argument, this may be an area where the mayor and I will have to differ.

Posted by: johnb at June 9, 2006 6:45 PM

Both options now available to the illegal - the consular ID or obtaining a phony social security number by other means - are indeed less-than-optimal. Frankly, the opportunity to be here illegally in itself should be completely eliminated by tightening the border and establishing a guest worker program.

Posted by: bountyhunter at June 9, 2006 8:37 PM

Intersting analysis, Mr. Morse.

I think to make things a bit simplier, there are realy three major parts to the immigration debate: 1, secure the border and legal enforcement; 2, guest worker program; and 3, amnesty/path to citizenship for illegal aliens.

You can basically figure out where everybody stands based on immigration based on these three areas. First, there is the amnesty for all illegal aliens position. This the postion of a majority of Senate Democrats like Feinstein and of course Chafee. Second, there is the amnesty for some illegals, create a guest worker program , and secure border/law enforcement. This is the position of President Bush and the Senate GOP leadership. Third, there is the secure the border and law enforcemnt ONLY position. This is the position of the House Republicans and a majority of Senate Republicans.

Based on what I have read in the paper and websites, it is clear that Laffey is for border security, law enforcement, but not for amnesty. He does support a guest worker program, but even the article cited by the Chafee it only says that these guest workers would get a work visa for 2-3 years. Also, in April 2006, in the ProJo, Laffey said he supports a guest worker program but not one which would leads to citizenship. Simply, Laffey does not citizenship for illegals or for that matter guest workers.

In a strange way, just as Laffey was ahead of the curve on pork in the fall of 2005, I think he is also ahead of the curve on illegal immigration. What I mean is that the only compromise that could come out of Congress on immigration is one that is for border secuirty/law enforcement to satisfy the House and a guest worker program (but no citizenship) for the Senate GOP. Sadly, this compromise would be filibustered in the Senate by the Democrats and Chafee who want amnesty for ALL illegals (it wouldn't be the first time Chafee filibustered with Democrats, he did it this week on the death tax).

P.S. I agree with you, johnb, in that I am not a fan of consular id cards. However, bottom line, it doesn't make illegals legal, and Laffey's overall position on immigration is where I am and I think a majority of Rhode Islanders and Americans than Chafee's position to give amnesty to all illegals.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at June 9, 2006 8:57 PM

Fred, BH,

To use BH's words, I think we can all agree that consular ID cards are "less than optimal" and that border security must be achieved for any real reform to occur. I also agree that Mayor Laffey was "ahead of the curve" in talking about illegal immigration.

Where I will differ with you is that I am not so sure Laffey was correctly ahead of the curve on immigration. In fact, I would say that he has sent a mixed message by advocating for consular ID cards.

While his intent may not have been to legitimize illegal immigrants, knowing what I do about the Mayor, I would wager to say that he is much too politically astute to ignore the perception that may have been created by his proposal. And judging by how critical this issue has become to conservative voters, the perception that the Mayor has created can be effectively exploited his opponent in order to question the Mayor's (otherwise solidly) conservative principles

Posted by: johnb at June 9, 2006 10:32 PM

johnb, I agree that the consular id cards does open Laffey up to criticism. But when that criticism comes from the amnesty for ALL illegals candidates such as Chafee or Whitehouse, it rings rather hollow. The average voter has no idea what a consular id cards are. They do know what amnesty for illegals is and that don't like that. In the end, a voter, who is conservative and who cares about illegal immigration, will chose the candidate who has accepted consular id cards in his city but opposes amensty for illegals over the candidate who supports amnesty for ALL illegals.

Good observations, johnb, I enjoyed this discussion even though we have some disagreements.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at June 10, 2006 10:14 AM

Agreed, Fred. The mayor does indeed represent a stark contrast to the positions of Senator Chafee and Sir Sheldon. As I'm sure you would agree, illegal immigration is by far not the only example where clear differences can be made between Laffey and the rest of the field.

I think the question the Mayor's team needs to address is that in a Republican primary, where every conservative vote matters, just how important is the issue of illegal immigration, and has the Mayor's perceived ambiguity tempered what should be a red-hot base?

My feeling is that there will be a large number of single-issue voters on both sides of the aisle in the GOP primary. The Mayor certainly has been capitalizing on the issue of government "pork" but I'm not so sure that will have the legs to motivate people to the polls. As we saw in California last week, illegal immigration will motivate the conservative base, and it might be wise for the Mayor to take this opportunity to clarify his record and restate his position.

In all, I find this issue to be fascinating for both domestic and international policy and great material for debate. And short of cleaning up our own state government, I think a sound immigration policy will have one of the most lasting impacts on Rhode Island in the long run.

Posted by: johnb at June 10, 2006 1:18 PM

Summer is flip-flop season, and we all expect candidates to jump ship on certain issues and switch allegiances on others for political expedience. Laffey seems to be the most vaccilating.

According to the AP (Republican Candidates for Senate Outline Positions, 4/29/06), Laffey claims he would not extend citizenship to illegal immigrants, advocates securing our borders with military force, and wants to penalize employers that hire illegal immigrants.

Yet just a year ago, Laffey announced Cranston would allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses using identification cards issued by the Mexican government. An article in the ProJo reported that the card “is not proof of legal immigration status or eligibility to work in the United States.” As the article noted, this card is not proof of legal immigration status or eligibility to work in the United States. Earlier in 2005, the ProJo quoted Laffey as saying “We should recruit labor at the border” (ProJo: “Cranston Mayor Talks the Talk,” 2/26/05).

Laffey wanted—indeed, recruited—illegal immigrants to bolster Cranston’s local work force, but has “switched sides” to appease his right-wing base.

How many roads must a Mexican walk down before you can call him a legal guest worker? The question is a difficult one. I personally believe if businesses need illegal immigrants for their labor, and act on this need, we ought to at least put thse workers on the road to citizenship. "Let every man be rewarded according to his own labor" (I Corinthians). That said, it’s hard to figure out Steve Laffey believes. Where does Candidate Laffey really stand on illegal immigration? The answer is blowing in the wind.

Posted by: Adam Smith at June 10, 2006 5:33 PM


Most commentators on this site are well-versed on the issues, possess above-average intelligence and, most importantly, can be counted on to check facts and original source material. Consequently, taking quotes out of context, or worse, only including half the quote to distort the meaning, are cardinal sins here. It is doubtful you will recover an iota of credibility after the exposure of this whopper on your part.

You quoted the article as follows: "We should recruit labor at the border". You also state that "Laffey wanted - indeed, recruited - illegal immigrants..."

Here is the entire quote: "When he (Laffey) returned, he proposed encouraging American companies such as Wal-Mart to go directly to the border to recruit workers from among those crossing, and allow them two or three year work visas to join such companies."

That is a huge difference from what you wrote. Having stong opinions is one thing, Smith, but grossly manipulating quotes is something you will get called on the carpet for every time.
You call yourself a professor. If so, that makes your lack of intellectual honesty that much more shameful.

Posted by: bountyhunter at June 10, 2006 6:34 PM