GOP Is Not Law-and-Order Party On Immigration, Democrats Say

Former health secretary and ex-governor Tommy G. Thompson says he misses politics but notes that his family does not want him to run again.
Former health secretary and ex-governor Tommy G. Thompson says he misses politics but notes that his family does not want him to run again. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
By Dan Balz
Sunday, May 14, 2006

With President Bush scheduled for a prime-time address on immigration tomorrow, Democrats believe it's time to turn tables on the president and argue that the Republicans are not the party of law and order when it comes to illegal immigrants.

A new analysis by the centrist Democratic group Third Way concludes that the administration has failed to enforce existing laws and that the president should be held accountable for those failures in the political debate now raging in Washington.

"The report shows that the administration, despite their tough talk, is failing at border security and enforcing the employer sanctions provision," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said. "It makes them vulnerable in what is their biggest and strongest argument -- that they are enforcing the law against illegal workers and are effective on border security."

According to the report, federal data show that the number of agents more than doubled between 1995 and 2005, but that border apprehensions have fallen about 31 percent. From fiscal 1996 to fiscal 2000, apprehensions averaged 1.52 million a year. The number fell to an average of 1.05 million from fiscal 2001 to fiscal 2004.

Away from the border, a similar pattern has occurred, with apprehensions falling an estimated 36 percent. "This decline trend and low overall total suggests that illegal immigrants who escape beyond the border are more or less here to stay if they choose," according to the report.

A third count in the Third Way indictment charges that the administration has been lax in punishing employers who hire illegal immigrants. "Either the administration has no interest in enforcing the law, or there's a wink" at employers who hire illegal immigrants, Richardson said.

Thompson Mulls Comeback

Former health and human services secretary Tommy G. Thompson is back in his home state of Wisconsin this weekend contemplating a return to politics. "I've got to be honest with you," he said in a telephone interview from Madison on Friday. "I miss the action."

Thompson was elected governor four times before he joined the Bush administration in 2001. Now in private life, he's working on a project to reform Medicaid and making money "for the first time in my life."

But he said he has been urged to challenge Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle or Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl, although he acknowledged that the Senate holds far less attraction for someone who's been in executive positions for nearly 20 years. He said he isn't sure he can envision himself in the Senate. "That's why I haven't risen to the bait," he said.

But a recent Strategic Vision poll showed him easily defeating Doyle in the governor's race, and that has stoked talk about a comeback. The irrepressible Thompson said he believes the polls: "I have no doubt I would win."

But Thompson sounded far from being a likely candidate. One problem is that Rep. Mark Green (R-Wis.) is already in the race to challenge Doyle, which could mean a messy problem for the party if Thompson gets in. Then there is the issue of Thompson's family. "My family doesn't want me to" run again, he said. "They're adamantly opposed to me getting back into partisan politics again."

Thompson will make his announcement this week.

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