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The [Thursday] Papers

So it turns out the big immigration rally here in Chicago a few weeks ago was just the beginning. A string of protests in other major cities followed and now, suddenly it seems, immigration has leapt to the top of the nation's domestic agenda.

Of course, in reality it's not so sudden. Immigration has been building steam over the years for a variety of reasons, and it's peaking now in large part due to legislation currently moving through Congress.

But it still seems sudden.

Does this mean that Jim Oberweis was actually ahead of the curve?

The best evidence of the complexity of immigration policy is how it doesn't fit into an ideological box. Fighting to protect illegal immigrants, for example, may be a noble defense of a hard-working, exploited underclass trying to achieve the American Dream, or it may be playing into the hands of the corporate exploiters using them as a source of horrendously cheap labor. Just to use one simplistic example.

Eric Alterman, the leftish author/pundit who writes a column for The Nation and a blog for MSNBC, included this item this week in a list titled How Would I Know?:

"Immigration. About twelve years ago, I got Rolling Stone to send me to San Diego to ride around with the Border Patrol for a week and chase illegal immigrants trying to sneak across the border. I could probably spin that into a column about today's hot-button topic, but I don't feel like it. We can't close the border and we need those people. But we can't let everybody in or punish law-abiding people. What to do? Hell if I know."

That about sums it up.

What makes the immigration issue so vexing is that it is really an entanglement of several disparate and often conflicting issues, from security and border control to economics and globalization. It is also unavoidably about race (both the race of those coming here and the race of those here who are impacted by the labor competition) and identity (is America a nation of immigrants, even illegal immigrants, or are we something else?)

I'm less concerned with the issue of border security (can't we just let everyone in who wants to come, but register them as citizens at the border?) than I am of the labor and economic questions surrounding immigration policy. What rankles me the most is the talking point I hear repeated most frequently: That (illegal) immigrants are willing to do the jobs that Americans won't. What I hear is racial code: Immigrants are willing to take on the worst of the worst jobs under sometimes illegal (or ought to be) conditions to make it in America, unlike, say, poor blacks.

This is the proposition I would like to see reporters explore most fully: What truly are not just the top-down economics of immigration, illegal and otherwise, but the bottom-up realities?

Mary Mitchell writes a bit about this today in her Chicago Sun-Times column.

The New York Times reports today about Republicans worried that the immigration issue will harm them with Hispanic voters.

Even Christian evangelicals are split on immigration, according to this story today in The Wall Street Journal.

Better yet, tune in to Lou Dobbs every day at 5 p.m. on CNN and see if this will be the day he spontaneously combusts. That's just one reason why I keep watching.

Second City Syndrome
The city council approved a zoning change sought by the folks behind the proposed Calatrava spire on the lakefront, also known as The Screw.

Alderman Burton Natarus, who represents downtown, said the skyscraper "puts Chicago on the map."

It's about time. Maybe we'll finally . . . I can't. This joke is too easy.

Meanwhile, Mayor Richard M. Daley said that "We have great skyscrapers here. And they employ a lot of people in construction--and even afterwards."

And even afterwa . . . Oh. I can't compete with these guys, they write their own material.

Troubled Trib
"Tribune's stock price has slumped to multiyear lows, Wall Street analysts have slapped the company with rare 'sell' ratings, and the company's strategy of corralling advertisers by owning newspapers and television stations in the same markets seems to have flopped."

- from a Wall Street Journal article today about the increasing pressure Tribune Company executives must be feeling to "do something," like sell the Cubs

Corruption Corner
The Michael Tristano plea deal in which he admitted steering state resources (your tax dollars) into Republican political campaigns does not bode well for Lee Daniels, onetime Speaker of the Illinois House and current state representative from Elmhurst.

"There's no allegations that I did anything wrong," Daniels said yesterday.

But the plea agreement says that "In both his capacities as chief of staff and executive director, [Tristano] reported to and took direction from Lee Daniels."

Rich Miller provides a nice roundup of links on his Capitol Fax Blog, including the plea agreement and the first Crain's Chicago Business story that kicked the whole thing off.

Flying Bind
Lynn Sweet dissects the ethics and lobbying bill that passed the U.S. Senate yesterday that would enact new restrictions on gifts but still allow members of Congress to accept free flights from lobbyists.

The print illustration accompanying Sweet's column is not reproduced online, because, well, the Web isn't really a visual medium.

Too bad, because Thomas Frisbie's handiwork nicely depicts a bunch of airplanes flying around the U.S. Capitol, whose American flag has its stars replaced by a dollar sign.

The airplanes are labeled as follows:

* Panhandle Am
* Air Mooch
* Cookie Jar Corp.
* Quid Pro Quo, Inc.
* Handout Co.
* Rent-A-Senator
* Free Ride Airlines
* Swine Flew

In the Webb
If the George Ryan case ends in a mistrial, the law firm defending him, Winston & Strawn, is in quite a quandry that has everything to do with money and nothing to do with the law. Read why in this Tribune report.

Our Tip Line is pro bono, even if you work at Winston & Strawn. Especially if you work at Winston & Strawn.


Posted on March 30, 2006

MUSIC - Holiday Hullabaloo.
POLITICS - IRS Lax On Tax Cheats.
SPORTS - SportsMonday: Bears' Real Goat.

BOOKS - Frederick Douglass: Prophet Of Freedom.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Recall! Caito Salads & Bowls.

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