Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Governor Bredesen leads the way for ongoing immigrant policy discussion without rhetoric against Spanish-speakers and foreign-born

Among growing number of statesmen from both parties demanding standards in debate

Sloppy oppositions cross into "very, very bad territory"

In an interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press about his agenda for his second term, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen defined boundaries for public dialogue in regard to immigrants, saying that opposition to Spanish-speakers and the foreign-born in general goes too far.

"Anticipating further discussion about immigration reform in this year’s legislative session, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen said earlier this week that he hopes for an approach that balances the need to crack down on illegal immigration with avoiding discrimination against Hispanics."

"'Illegal immigration is bad. It is OK to fight it,' he said. 'But when that starts slopping over into ‘We’re opposed to anybody who speaks Spanish or we’re opposed to anybody who’s not American-born,’ I think you get into very, very bad territory. And there’s been some of that.'"

In 2005, it was said of Bredesen that he was not "tuned in to the animosity" related to immigrants (story here), but Bredesen's recent comments prove otherwise. He has heard the animosity and believes there is a better way for Tennessee.

Bredesen's political opponents previously believed that his failure to "tune in" to the negative rhetoric would be a political liability in his re-election bid (same story cited above). Also, see earlier stories from the Hispanic Nashville Notebook about the fanning of anger in Tennessee for political gain (here and here).

Leaders across the political spectrum, however, have warned against sloppy negative rhetoric, including Nashville's Democratic U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper (story here), Republican and former Bush official Leslie Sanchez (story here), and President Bush himself:

"America needs to conduct this debate on immigration in a reasoned and respectful tone. Feelings run deep on this issue, and as we work it out, all of us need to keep some things in mind. We cannot build a unified country by inciting people to anger, or playing on anyone's fears, or exploiting the issue of immigration for political gain."

"We must always remember that real lives will be affected by our debates and decisions, and that every human being has dignity and value no matter what their citizenship papers say."

- President George W. Bush, May 15, 2006

Bredesen won his re-election bid. The sloppy, divisive rhetoric about immigrants did not work against him, and now that he has a second term in which to govern, the Governor has set the tone for the work to come.

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