Free Condoms and Herding Goats: The GOP on Mexican Immigration
Watching President Bush getting pilloried by grassroots conservatives and his Republican allies alike usually tops any progressive's list of life's simple pleasures. But as Trent Lott and Mark Kirk showed this week, seeing the Congressional GOP get its hate on when it comes to Bush's immigration initiatives has become a truly disturbing spectacle.
Kirk, a Republican Congressman from Illinois, offered a novel solution to illegal immigration: distribute free condoms to Mexicans. Though the fertility rate in Mexico has plummeted since 1980 (now 2.5 children, compared to 2.1 in the U.S.), Kirk argued on the House floor that illegal Mexican immigration should be nipped in the bud (so to speak):
"A slower rate of growth of Mexico's population would improve the economy of Mexico. It would also reduce the environmental pressure on Mexico's ecosystem. But a slower rate of growth would also reduce the long-term illegal immigration pressure on America's borders."
While Kirk's brand of eugenics-lite for our neighbors to the south no doubt appealed to many in his Republican Party, social conservatives were naturally conflicted. Kirk's "contraceptives contra Mexico" proposal came during a House debate on a measure on whether to overturn the Bush administration's ban on distribution of contraceptives to international family planning agencies that also provide abortion services. Apparently, every life is sacred, unless it will live south of the Rio Grande.
Meanwhile, Mississippi Senator Trent Lott served up a new analogy, if not a practical solution, for the issue of illegal immigration from Mexico. Containing the tide of Mexican immigrants, Lott suggests, is like herding goats. In a nutshell, nothing an electrified fence couldn't quickly manage. As the Sun Herald reported on Thursday:
"If the answer is 'build a fence' I've got two goats on my place in Mississippi. There ain't no fence big enough, high enough, strong enough, that you can keep those goats in that fence."
"Now people are at least as smart as goats," Lott continued. "Maybe not as agile. Build a fence. We should have a virtual fence. Now one of the ways I keep those goats in the fence is I electrified them. Once they got popped a couple of times they quit trying to jump it."
"I'm not proposing an electrified goat fence," Lott added quickly, "I'm just trying, there's an analogy there."
Lott, of course, is no stranger to controversy. In 2002, he famously endorsed the 19848 presidential bid of legendary segregationist Strom Thurmond. And last year, Lott showed his sensitivity in the debate over the war in Iraq, declaring of Sunnis and Shiites, "They all look the same to me." Still, Lott was unrepentant regarding his casual comparison of Mexicans to goats. "I don't worry about offending anybody anymore," Lott said, "because I've already offended everybody."
Not in the Republican Party. Not when it comes to immigration.