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posted: 9/21/2012 5:32 PM

Preaching to the choir

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Some people see a problem, and look for a solution. Others look at a problem, and see an opportunity.

If you've ever wondered why some issues never get resolved, one reason is because so-called stakeholders have an interest in keeping them unresolved. Look at the immigration debate. There are too many groups that care only about spinning events in ways that influence politicians and the media to serve their own narrow interests.

The Washington, D.C.-based liberal advocacy group America's Voice is mainly interested in helping to elect Democrats. In 2008, shortly after this satellite office for the Democratic Party opened, executive director Frank Sharry -- whom I consider a friend, at least three years out of every four -- took a potshot at Sen. John McCain by insisting that Latino voters wouldn't cast ballots for the GOP presidential candidate. I wrote a rebuttal, challenging the very idea that a non-Latino like Sharry would dare to speak for Latinos. Frank was not happy.

Between presidential campaigns, the organization drifts back to the middle of the road. That's where it found me.

In May 2011, when I went after Rep. Lamar Smith, Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and one of Congress' most outspoken critics of illegal immigration, for falsely describing as soft an Obama administration immigration enforcement policy that is harder than anything we've seen in half a century, Smith responded by writing a series of letters to the editor in which he insisted that I had gotten it all wrong.

In one of the dispatches that America's Voice sends out, Sharry defended me by saying that Smith had "really, really thin skin" and that the congressman was "making stuff up." But now, it's an election year again. And when it comes to their record on immigration, it's Democrats and their defenders who have really, really thin skin and make stuff up. Anyone who calls them out becomes a target, and that includes me.

Recently, I criticized the Democratic Party for shamelessly manipulating the immigration issue at its national convention. First, Democrats turned DREAM Act students into props without acknowledging that it was five Senate Democrats who killed the legislation in December 2010. (Democrats were in the majority, and had the 60 votes to beat a Republican filibuster before losing a handful of their own members). Then they gave Bill Clinton a makeover as a champion of illegal immigrants when it was Clinton who militarized the U.S.-Mexico border through Operation Gatekeeper in 1994 and who two years later signed the Republican-sponsored Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which made deportations easier. (While overwhelmingly supported by the GOP, the bill also got the votes of 22 Democrats in the Senate and 88 in the House.)

In response to my convention column, America's Voice accused me of letting my "Republican instincts" get the better of me. No Christmas card this year, I guess.

America's Voice and organizations like it are in lockdown mode, trying to convince Latinos -- 67 percent of whom voted for Barack Obama in 2008 -- to excuse an immigration policy that has been all about disappointment, deportations and deception. They also want to cover the tracks of one of the major obstacles to immigration reform -- another entity that helps to elect Democrats: labor unions.

These left-leaning groups are all part of the same dysfunctional family. America's Voice often teams up with the AFL-CIO, the powerful labor conglomerate that led the fight against the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which gave amnesty to more than 3 million illegal immigrants, because blue-collar workers delude themselves into thinking that immigrants take jobs from them.

The two organizations recently launched "Own the Dream," a website that is supposed to help illegal-immigrant students apply for the Obama administration's election-year sweetener for Latino voters -- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It's where the administration promises to stop deporting a group of people, which President Obama had claimed it wasn't deporting in the first place, by asking the undocumented to step forward and identify themselves to the same folks who have already deported about 1.5 million people just like them.

You'll never hear any criticism of the deferred-action policy from so-called immigrant advocates. They tell only half the story: the part that makes Democrats look good and Republicans look bad. But, in reality, on immigration, both parties look awful. Groups like America's Voice can't deal with this. The only "voices" they want to hear are their own.

Ruben Navarrette's email address is

2012, The Washington Post Writers Group

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