Sen. Charles Schumer — the New York Democrat who is the lead sponsor of the Senate immigration reform bill — has warned that there could be huge demonstrations against the Republican Party should it vote down his highly flawed 1,000-plus-page bill drafted for the most part by his staff.
For most of the nation and much of the media, his warning has flown under the radar screen. It should not. It should not because it can and should be fairly asked if he was warning this could happen, or was he encouraging it to happen?
Said Schumer on left-of-center CNN: "This has the potential of becoming the next civil rights movement. I could envision in the late summer or early fall if [Speaker of the House John] Boehner tried to bottle the bill up or put something in without a path to citizenship — if there's not a path to citizenship, there's not a bill — I could see a million people on the Mall in Washington."
Again, he could "envision" and "see" that happening in the late summer or early fall, or is he calling for it to happen then? Is this the overheated rhetoric of a senator famed in Washington for needing media attention or is it something much more Machiavellian and disturbing in its intent?
Is Schumer issuing a warning, or trying to intimidate the already-weakening Republican pPrty through a very dangerous game of political extortion? Is the liberal senator from economically crumbling New York state deliberately turning up the flame under an already boiling issue so as to make it spill out beyond "the Mall in Washington"? Where would his "next civil rights movement" stop? What other cities or towns would see such "spontaneous" demonstrations?
Schumer and his staff — as well as those in the Democratic Party, the Obama administration and the mainstream media who have chosen not to disavow the senator's warning — have now drawn an un-crossable line in the sand and declared that, if there is not a "path to citizenship" for the millions of people who willingly broke the laws of the United States of America and crossed our (formerly) sovereign borders illegally, there will be a very high price to pay — including, it seems, the implied threat of riots or civil disobedience.
As one who grew up in abject poverty, was homeless off and on as a child, often lived in poor minority neighborhoods, was once married to a Hispanic-American, was immersed in the culture, and traveled often to Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries, I fail to understand how this is "the next civil rights movement."
Isn't the churlish rewarding of illegal activity for purely partisan gain (real and imagined votes) a direct insult to the civil rights movement? Doesn't this Schumer immigration bill further inflate African-American unemployment, add billions to our debt, and overwhelm our already failing public hospitals and school systems?
What about the tens of millions of immigrant-Americans who entered this country legally and proudly? Be they Hispanic-American, Russian-American, Korean-American, Indian-American, Arab-American, or Irish-American. Isn't this bill a slap in their face and openly calling them "chumps" for obeying the laws of our country?
Should Schumer, or Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina or Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida — who are caving on this issue in search of votes — care to actually ask the opinion of millions of Hispanic-Americans who legally entered our nation and became citizens, they may be surprised to learn that many are not only dead-set against illegal immigration but strongly believe that this "path to citizenship" for those who broke the law does make a mockery of their respect for the United States and its laws.
No matter. It is clear that the dye is cast on this issue and breaking the law is going to be rewarded by both parties. But, until that unfortunate day comes, it's equally clear that Schumer is still going to warn (or threaten) those who remain on the fence of the rule of law.
Douglas MacKinnon is a former White House and Pentagon official and author of the memoir "Rolling Pennies In The Dark," (Simon & Schuster, 2012).