Sunday, May 14, 2006

GOP Is Not Law-and-Order Party On Immigration, Democrats Say
GOP Is Not Law-and-Order Party On Immigration, Democrats Say
By Dan Balz

With President Bush scheduled for a prime-time address on immigration tomorrow, Democrats believe it's time to turn tables on the president and argue that the Republicans are not the party of law and order when it comes to illegal immigrants.

A new analysis by the centrist Democratic group Third Way concludes that the administration has failed to enforce existing laws and that the president should be held accountable for those failures in the political debate now raging in Washington.

"The report shows that the administration, despite their tough talk, is failing at border security and enforcing the employer sanctions provision," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said. "It makes them vulnerable in what is their biggest and strongest argument -- that they are enforcing the law against illegal workers and are effective on border security."

According to the report, federal data show that the number of agents more than doubled between 1995 and 2005, but that border apprehensions have fallen about 31 percent. From fiscal 1996 to fiscal 2000, apprehensions averaged 1.52 million a year. The number fell to an average of 1.05 million from fiscal 2001 to fiscal 2004.

Away from the border, a similar pattern has occurred, with apprehensions falling an estimated 36 percent. "This decline trend and low overall total suggests that illegal immigrants who escape beyond the border are more or less here to stay if they choose," according to the report.

A third count in the Third Way indictment charges that the administration has been lax in punishing employers who hire illegal immigrants. "Either the administration has no interest in enforcing the law, or there's a wink" at employers who hire illegal immigrants, Richardson said.

Thompson Mulls Comeback

Former health and human services secretary Tommy G. Thompson is back in his home state of Wisconsin this weekend contemplating a return to politics. "I've got to be honest with you," he said in a telephone interview from Madison on Friday. "I miss the action."

Thompson was elected governor four times before he joined the Bush administration in 2001. Now in private life, he's working on a project to reform Medicaid and making money "for the first time in my life."

But he said he has been urged to challenge Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle or Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl, although he acknowledged that the Senate holds far less attraction for someone who's been in executive positions for nearly 20 years. He said he isn't sure he can envision himself in the Senate. "That's why I haven't risen to the bait," he said.

But a recent Strategic Vision poll showed him easily defeating Doyle in the governor's race, and that has stoked talk about a comeback. The irrepressible Thompson said he believes the polls: "I have no doubt I would win."

But Thompson sounded far from being a likely candidate. One problem is that Rep. Mark Green (R-Wis.) is already in the race to challenge Doyle, which could mean a messy problem for the party if Thompson gets in. Then there is the issue of Thompson's family. "My family doesn't want me to" run again, he said. "They're adamantly opposed to me getting back into partisan politics again."

Thompson will make his announcement this week.
Gay Community Faults Dean

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean didn't make any new friends in the gay community last week when he appeared on Pat Robertson's "700 Club" show on the Christian Broadcasting Network and misstated his party's position on same-sex marriage.

Dean said "the Democratic Party platform from 2004 says marriage is between a man and a woman." In fact, the platform said: "We support full inclusion of gay and lesbian families . . . [M]arriage has been defined at the state level for 200 years, and we believe it should continue to be defined there."

Dean later retracted his comment, but it was one of several episodes that have led some in the gay community to question his commitment to their issues.

"This is not the first time he has misrepresented this important and affirming plank," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in a statement. He pledged to return a $5,000 contribution from the DNC. "Governor Dean's record on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues since becoming DNC chair has been sorely and sadly lacking."

Earlier this month, Dean fired the DNC's gay outreach adviser, Donald Hitchcock, less than a week after his domestic partner, Paul Yandura, had criticized Dean's efforts to protect gay rights. He was immediately replaced by another activist, but over the past year, other concerns have been raised about Dean's bridge-building to gays.

Jo Wyrick of the National Stonewall Democrats, which represents many gay Democrats, said the DNC is going through a process of internal reorganizing, adding: "This presents an opportunity for the DNC to reveal their plan for GLBT outreach."

Dean said in a statement that the party is committed to equal rights and will oppose constitutional marriage amendments.

Staff researcher Zachary A. Goldfarb contributed to this report.