Of the original seven Republican presidential candidates, not counting Jon Huntsman, who was never more than a CINO (Candidate In Name Only), four took the road of hardline anti-immigrant extremism. Herman Cain (remember him?) originally proposed to build a fence to electrocute people at the Mexican border, before trying to laugh it off as a (very sick) joke.
Michele Bachmann (remember her?) urged every state to adopt an anti-immigrant law similar to the one in Arizona. Rick Perry, after getting booed for saying that one should "have a heart" on immigration, began campaigning together with Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is as much a symbol of anti-immigrant hate as the Statue of Liberty (remember her?) is of pro-immigrant tolerance. The above names (except, one hopes, for Lady Liberty) are now mere asterisks in the history of presidential politics.
Of the four remaining candidates, one, Ron Paul, has never had the slightest hope of becoming president from the beginning. The withdrawal of another, Rick Santorum, is only a matter of time, probably sooner rather than later, and possibly even before the January 31 Florida primary. In contrast to the first three failed candidates, both Santorum and Paul have made clear that they will not support mass deportations of unauthorized immigrants.
Ot the two remaining serious candidates, Newt Gingrich has also come out against deporting all unauthorized immigrants, and, alone among the candidates, has offered a few specifics on which ones he would allow to stay in this country. All you have to do is be here for 25 years, stay away from mosques, and pass muster with the local "community board", incuding ones in places like Alabama, Arizona and South Carolina.
Well, not bad, at least there might be half a dozen people in America who could qualify for legalization; maybe even a dozen, if enough soft headed, bleeding heart liberals make it onto the deportation panels, that is. Better than nothing. This leaves only one anti-immigrant hard liner in the race, Mitt Romney (who did nothing to try to repeal a Massachusetts law giving in-state tuition to unauthorized immigrants when he was governor).
This past weekend, an almost 100 percent white Republican electorate in South Carolina, a state with its own harsh anti-immigant law, chose between the candidate who, at least in theory, wants to let at least a few unauthorized immigrants stay in America, and one who wants to deport everyone. Romney, the hard liner extremist, who is so mean-spirited that he has even promised to veto the DREAM Act if it ever passes Congress, went down to a resounding defeat. How well will he do in more liberal states with larger immigrant communities?
However, before immigration advocates start applauding because Gingrich, who would let a few lucky unauthorized immigrants avoid deportation, won in South Carolina, there is a larger issue which all Americans need to consider, regardless of their views on immigration. Newt Gingrich has promised to arrest any judge who issues a decision that Gingrich opposes.
Conceivably, this might be a decision upholding immigrant rights. Even the current radical rignt Supreme Court has issued one or two such decisions recently. In contrast, it might be a decision against immigrant rights, or one that has nothing to do with immigration at all. It doesn't matter. The point is the same. No country whose president believes in arresting judges he disagrees with can call itself a democracy.
But, you say that even if Newt Gingrich were to be elected president, he would have no power to arrest judges merely because he disagrees with them? Think again. We now have a law allowing the president, acting through the military, to arrest any American citizen and detain him or her indefinitely, without charges or trial. This law was signed by a Democratic president, Barack Obama. Unauthorized immigrants are no longer the only people in America whose basic human rights are in danger.