Potter shapes Portland’s cultural realignment
By Mark Ellis
One of the testier moments in the Republican primary campaign came when Rudy
Giuliani accused Mitt Romney of having a sanctuary mansion. Apparently some
undocumented workers got past Romney’s gate.
Neither America’s Mayor nor Romney was able to stop the inevitability of John
McCain’s party-boss decreed coronation, but we haven’t seen the last of the Gotcha
Game on immigration. While there is consensus that the upcoming election will hinge
primarily on “the economy, stupid” and Iraq, the immigrant influx remains front-burner
hot. After the Democrats finish their gladiatorial primary, the two general election
candidates will find it necessary to speak to the nuances of their positions, as Hillary
Clinton attempted to do when asked about Good-Riddance Spitzer’s driver’s licenses for
people here in the country illegally. Her sorry performance probably accurately reflects
the kind of hemming, hawing and ambiguity that can be expected.
The issue comes home to roost in Portland as Mayor Tom Potter and city commissioners
prepare to open a day labor center. The planned center will facilitate the hiring of
individuals who congregate at downtown Southeast Sixth and Ankeny in hopes of
picking up some temporary work in the construction and other manual-labor intensive
industries. It is generally accepted that many, if not most, of these men are in the country
Potter’s position holds that illegal immigration is the feds’ problem to solve, and in the
meantime Portland is going to implement policies that bring order and humane treatment
to the situation. Opponents argue that any government expenditure for border jumpers is
wrong and probably illegal. They compellingly point to unchecked immigration’s welldocumented ill-effects. Oklahoma and Arizona are becoming bellwether states for
immigration policy, and they have taken federal matters into state hands. Draconian new
anti-illegal immigration laws in these and other states provide a counterpoint to Mayor
Potter’s continued commitment to sanctuary policies.
One problem for Republicans is that the growing Hispanic voting block may be turned
off by initiatives that are perceived to be anti-immigration, or worse, anti-Hispanic.
While a staunch Republican base calls for crackdowns, roundups, fences, and tamperproof IDs, moderates like McCain understand that losing the Hispanic vote to any
significant degree could initiate a new Republican Ice Age, or perhaps even the end of the
GOP that progressive pundits have prophesied wrongly so many times before. Analyst
Dick Morris propounded as much with his quip that the Republicans “will run out of
But even with these electoral considerations in play, there is considerable immigration
policy backlash within the party — enough to shut down Bush/McCain’s tepid and ill-defined Immigration Act, along with the Republican National Convention phone center
for want of enough donations to keep the lights on.
McCain, an immigration dove turned supposed hawk, has rightfully referred to the
undocumented as “God’s children.” Clinton, helped by the Hispanic bloc at every turn,
has remained in contention. From that, voters can extrapolate her likely post-election
immigration sympathies. Barrack Obama talks tough about border security while stagemanaging his pro-immigrant subtext in catch-all, disclose-nothing speeches. McCain
offers vague assurances, Clinton stumbles, Obama waxes. Okalahoma dries up for
anyone not legally entitled to be in the United States. And unless Judicial Watch or some
other entity steps in to stop it, Potter will act to legitimize an undocumented economy.
To the American people, who by a solid majority have voiced their desire for a solution
that emphasizes border security first, a satisfying resolution on immigration seems
elusive. Pat Buchanan’s bestseller, “State Of Emergency,” warns of American geographic
balkanization directly tied to immigration’s demographic and cultural effects. Lacking
decisive action from whoever occupies the Oval Office in January 2009, a dissimilar
patchwork of immigration policies across the country is likely.
Much has been made about the party realignments implicit in the 2008 choice of
commander-in-chief. But perhaps a larger historical force is in play: Profound
realignments don’t only happen in political parties. They happen over continents, to
civilizations, and to cultures and tribes. Though humankind can play a role in shaping
how such vast realignments manifest, ultimately, like forces of nature, they cannot be
You probably won’t hear the candidates articulate it that way, but with regard to the mass
migration of workers into the United States, an eventuality of that magnitude seems
BrainstormNW - May 2008