Thursday, March 06, 2008

Alabama State Senator Scott Beason is schooled

J. Richard Cohen, President of The Southern Poverty Law Center, gets space in The Anniston Star for A distraction from real problems where he ridicules State Senator Scott Beason for his claim that the "number one issue in the state of Alabama is illegal immigration. (As an aside, let's guess which political party has this man on various Executive Committees? Surprise ... he's a Republican. A Lou Dobbs type it seems.) Seriously, that's Alabama's number one issue? C'mon Senator, surely you know better. Or could this be a little more about your ambitions or ... ?

Mr. Cohen writes in part:

According to Beason, it's simple: Alabama has "a common culture" that is being threatened by "illegal immigration." Our way of life is at stake.

If all of this sounds familiar, that's because it is. A half-century ago, we heard another generation of politicians claim that Alabama's culture — its "way of life" — was threatened. Then the enemy was integration. Politicians like George Wallace built their careers by vilifying blacks and stirring up hatred — all while largely ignoring our state's real problems.

Immigrants may be the most popular scapegoat of the day, but they're obviously not the cause of the major problems in our state. In fact, there have been numerous studies in recent years suggesting that undocumented workers have an overall positive economic impact.

Unfortunately, we're not having serious debate. Instead, the discussion is being dominated by pundits looking for ratings and politicians trolling for votes. Beason's comments are the type that inflames racial and ethnic passions, poisons the debate and distracts us from more pressing problems.

When confronted with right wing posturing I truly value the direct approach. Well done Mr. Cohen. Would Gardendale Alabama's First Baptist Church approve of Senator Beason's demagoguery? A "successful businessman and owner of Custom Renovators and Old South Construction" I'd wonder if Mr. Beason might have an entrepreneurial view on the issue. Since he's a NFIB darling I'd suggest the defense of "free enterprise" must fit with his approach.

I couldn't help but note Senator Beason's "Joint Interim Patriotic Immigration Commission" (Love that title don't you?) was being assisted by Michael Ciamarra, vice president of the Alabama Policy Institute. I also noted that the first recommendation of the JIPIC citied in the reporting of the AP/Montgomery Advertiser was "getting Congress to develop a comprehensive guest worker program that would provide for a timely and adequate supply of workers." Lets keep the cheap labor coming even if "our way of life" is threatened. John Gunn

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