And yet the balance seems to have shifted toward expulsion. Angle and Tancredo may have lost in the November 2 election, but a consensus among insiders is that the animus they represented won. Frank Sharry, founder and director of America's Voice, a liberal immigration advocacy group in Washington, says: "The House of Representatives is now in the hands of radicals who will run the immigration policy. There's no way around it. And they're going to be able to pass anything they want."
Sharry's best hope is that the Senate, still controlled by Democrats, will serve as "the firewall that stands up to the radical shit coming out of the House."
The same general gloom can be heard from more conservative employer-group advocates for reform. Craig Reggelbrugge, co-chair of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR), which represents employer-farmers, paints a grim picture:
"The solution we stand for and we have been working on with Congress for years," he says, "is a negotiated compromise that the chief labor union in agriculture and the employers all support, but the debate has grown more and more dysfunctional."
Dysfunctional is not necessarily code for Republican, but it could be for Tea. Immigration reform as expressed in the Schumer bill has strong support from many Republicans, who point out that former President George W. Bush came closer to getting a decent bill passed than has President Barack Obama.
The nail-biting is over the new Tea Party-tinged members of Congress who ran on kick-'em-out platforms. Two in particular will have solid control of immigration reform when the new House is seated in January. U.S. Representative Lamar Smith from the San Antonio area in central Texas will become chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Representative Steve King from western Iowa will be chair of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law, making the pair the House's two main gatekeepers for immigration law.
When Sharry talks about radicals in charge of the House, he means these two. Of Smith, he says, "What he calls attrition through enforcement is a strategy, to be blunt, approaching an American version of ethnic cleansing.
"We're going to expel millions of these Latino immigrants who have been here a long time. They may have violated immigration law to get in, but they have been otherwise law-abiding, hard-working family people, two-thirds of whom have been here for more than a decade, 70 percent of whom are in family units. We're going to make life so miserable for these people that they are expelled from this nation of immigrants."
Smith gave a written statement in response to questions about his plans: "The Judiciary Committee should enact policies that will better secure our border and discourage illegal immigration, human smuggling, and drug trafficking," he said.
He concluded with an appeal to anxiety and action: "American citizens should not have to fear for their lives on U.S. soil! If the federal government enforced immigration laws, we could better secure the border and better protect U.S. residents."
King wants to start the expulsions by hitting the softest targets — the children of immigrants. His public pronouncements on immigration have centered on a proposal to amend the Constitution to take away the guarantee of citizenship provided in the 14th Amendment for children born in the United States to foreign parents. King also wants to strip these kids of any social safety net.
In a statement on his House Web site, King says: "Many of these illegal aliens are giving birth to children in the United States so that they can have uninhibited access to taxpayer-funded benefits and to citizenship for as many family members as possible."
This view of illegal aliens — Latino moochers rushing here to procreate, get on the dole, and teach their kids to be terrorists — conflicts with the data. For one thing, Latino immigrants stopped rushing here when the American economy hit the skids in 2008.
More to the point, Latino immigrants — legal or undocumented — are more likely to get jobs and work for a living than native-born Americans. A 2006 U.S. Census study found that more than 68 percent of working-age people of Mexican origin are working as opposed to 65.7 percent of all Americans. People of Central American origin make most Americans look like they're on permanent siesta: More than 76 percent of working-age Central Americans in this country earn a living by working, the study found.
The best evidence in favor of the Latino immigrants is in the outcomes achieved by the wave of them accorded amnesty under Ronald Reagan. A July 13 VVM story provided a gallery of examples of immigrants granted amnesty under the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 who have gone on to become esteemed and productive members of their communities at all levels of the socio-economic ladder. It's a story reflected all over America, wherever those families took root after gaining citizenship.