Archive for September 1st, 2006

So the Immigration sideshow passed through Hamilton this week. Did you feel a breeze? You certainly didn’t hear anything about it. In fact, you’re probably wondering what the h*ll I’m talking about, aren’t you?

One of nineteen scheduled House-sponsored immigration hearings took place in Hamilton on Monday. The purported goal of the hearings is to check in with Americans to see what their concerns about immigration are. The real goal is to drum up support for the House’s tough-on-immigration plan and to showboat for the upcoming elections.

Naturally this particular hearing was brought to Montana by our very own Representative, Denny Rehberg.

So what’s the plan that Rehberg and hearing chairman, paleo-conservative Tom Tancredo (R-CO), are touting? The Missoula Independent:

Under the House bill, a person who enters the country illegally could be charged with a federal felony and be permanently barred from obtaining American citizenship. The bill calls for increased border surveillance, including the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, ground-based sensors, satellites, radar, cameras, guards, dogs, more checkpoints, vehicle barriers and 700 miles of fence along the country’s southwestern border. It also directs the DHS to study the feasibility of erecting a physical barrier along the country’s northern border.

Whoo-whee! That’s some tough plan for those tough Republicans! The basis for these tough, tough, tough measures is, of course, terror. At least that’s what the Republicans are trying to do, whip up fear and propose super, duper tough legislation so you’ll think they’re tough.

Only that line didn’t go over so well with the “witnesses” the tough-guy Congressmen selected for the hearing. (Now remember – these witnesses are hand-picked by the politicians to give them the answers they’re looking for.) No, the Montana law enforcement officials didn’t want all the tough fences and tough guns and tough equipment the tough Republicans were offering:

However, none of the five witnesses said anything substantive about terrorists. They did offer ample testimony about drug smuggling, and also made it clear that the best intentions sometimes don’t lead to a safer border or better drug interdiction.Both Glacier County Sheriff Wayne Dusterhoff and Jeremy House, a Billings police sergeant who supervises a drug task force in eastern Montana, said their agencies have considerable difficulty getting information from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. And House said investigations have sometimes been hindered by ICE.


In fact, none of the five witnesses said they needed any legislative changes to do their jobs better. None said they needed expanded authority to deal with immigration issues.

About the only real issue beyond cooperation appeared to be staffing and resources; nearly every agency had a relatively small number of officers or agents covering a huge expanse of the American-Canadian border.

Got that? The agencies need better communication and more staff. Period. Gee, isn’t that why the Department of Homeland Security was created, to coordinate law enforcement?

So here we are approaching the five-year anniversary of 9/11 (who else is dreading that upcoming day?), and border agents are plagued by the same problems that led to 9/11. Short-staffed and bad communication. If anything, then, this was a glaring reminder of how ineffective Congressional Republicans have been in effecting substantive reform that makes our nation safer.

Still, Tancredo wasn’t going to let these people off easy:

Although some have worried that efforts to shore up America’s northern border might lead to environmental degradation – there’s even been talk of a fence between America and Canada – an agent from U.S. Customs and Border Protection said his agents just need good access to trails and roads that are already in place along the border. Tancredo repeatedly asked whether a “barrier” would help.

But Robert Harris, chief patrol agent of the agency’s Spokane sector, said there is no reason to harm the other important resources like wilderness and national parks along the border.

“We just need trails, better access to the roads we already have,” Harris said.

You think this testimony will cause Tancredo to shelve his talk about a “northern barrier”? Me, neither.

Now consider the Senate’s immigration plan:

The Senate version, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., calls for the issuance of three-year guest worker visas, and establishment of a path to permanent residence and eventual citizenship. Illegal immigrants currently in the country would be fined $2,000 each, and would have to pay back taxes and learn English and American civics. They would also undergo background security checks. President Bush supports the Senate version.

This is a much smarter plan. For one, the House’s plan is unworkable. Charge every illegal border-crosser with a felony? Great. Where are you going to imprison them? Who’s going to pay for their incarceration? Who’s going to pay for all the gee-gaws – the satellites, guard dogs, tracking equipment, the barriers, fences, barbed wire, and ditches?

Will Denny Rehberg pony up and put his money behind his principles? Don’t hold your breath.

Let’s face it: the Senate plan makes more sense. It provides some revenue to offset the cost of tighter border control. It provides a legal avenue for seasonal workers to come to the US and earn their way to citizenship that includes background checks and security clearance. It’s realistic, it’d be less expensive, and more effective.

But Rehberg and Tancredo are tough guys. They want to slap illegals against the wall and frisk ‘em under the barrel of a gun. That’s what tough guys do on television, anyway, which is apparently where tough-guy Congressmen and their tough-guy supporters learn about tough-guy things.


Reactions to the blogger story: Cece’s bummed they picked Coobs over Craig, and – along with Sharon Brogan — wonders where are the women? Craig was a little bummed at hitting the editing-room floor and thinks it’s because he refused to identify himself as a Republican. (Plus great discussion in the comments.) Justin kicks off his blog with a post on the Independent story, reminding us that nobody actually reads our blogs. Oh, and Wulfgar! shows off his “shrill ravings of a liberal madman.” Come to think of it – that’s a great name for a blog! “Shrill Ravings.” Or “Liberal Madman.”

Anyhow…back to politics…Burns supports the exploitation of troops by shady loan centers. Oh, and he was Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World.” A first for Montana! (Video via C&L.)

The Democrats move to Dillon! Moorcat wants you to support them.

Notorious T, Steve, figures out the deal behind that annoying plane circling above Missoula the past two-three days.

Who says the media is liberal? ABC airs a Presidential puff piece on 9/11.

The NRSC blows a half a mil on a primary race it’s likely to lose in an election cycle it can’t afford to waste funds.

Steve Benen comments on the media coverage of Rhode Island’s far-right purge of Republican moderate, Lincoln Chaffee.

Mr. Tubes and anti-pork transparency Ted Stevens flirting with ethical disaster?

Dave Neiwert takes a hard look at Jim Webb’s campaign in Virgina. Will attempts to win the South cost the Democratic party its soul? I say let the GOP keep it. We’ll take the West.

While Bush waxes optimistic about Iraq, the Pentagon releases a dour report: the situation in Iraq sucks.

Meanwhile the White House is paying $20M for positive media coverage of Iraq. Wait! I would have done it for half as much!

Here’s a story that should interest all political bloggers: Bay Area’s Josh Wolf, jailed for protecting his sources.

Last week our junior Senator wrote Governor Schweitzer to declare a state of emergency over Montana’s wildfires – only Schweitzer had already done so more than a month ago. Montana National Guard helicopters were used earlier this month, and Guard troops helped fight the recent Derby fire, which shut down parts of I-90.

Burns’ letter included the following lines:

“Entire ranches have been consumed and homes have been lost,” Burns wrote. “Based on these conditions, I am requesting that you declare a State of Emergency.”

After being notified that such an action was already implemented, Burns’ staffers worked furiously to cover their and their boss’ *sses:

James Pendleton, a Burns spokesman, said the senator was “pretty sure” Schweitzer had already issued such a disaster declaration, but just wanted to make sure.

“The genesis of the letter was just to make sure that all the bases were covered,” Pendleton said. “This is not a political football. It’s just a cover-the-bases letter and certainly casts no aspersions on the governor.”

Schweitzer’s reply was classic, and reminded Montanans where Boss Hogg has put his cows out to graze this summer:

“You know, these things get covered in the local and state press, but oftentimes they don’t make it into the New York Times and Washington Post,” Schweitzer said Thursday, as to how Burns might have missed the announcement.

(How this guy lost to Burns is beyond me. Watching Schweitzer exchange barbs with Burns’ campaign is like watching Ali toy with Liston.)

You know, a quick search of – the state government’s website – pulled up at least one document (pdf) that clearly indicates a governor-declared fire state of emergency exists in Montana. But then based on the Burns’ campaign, our junior Senator belongs to the Ted Stevens club of Internet-as-a-series-of-tubes believers.

That’s why I’m backing Matt Singer’s call for the Governor to call Senator Burns a federal disaster area.

Governor! We’re begging you! Put an end to the suffering Montana is enduring at the hands – mouth? – of our junior Senator! We need relief!

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