Special Reports

Political will for immigration reform wavers

Illegal immigration continues to be a divisive issue that sparks strong commentary and opinion -- but the Valley's federal legislators don't want to address it head-on.

The Bee, which last month published the seven-part "In Denial" series examining the conflicting policies and attitudes toward illegal immigration in the San Joaquin Valley, sent five congressional representatives in the region, as well as Rep.-elect Jeff Denham, a series of questions about their views on illegal immigration. Almost two weeks later, only two had responded. Their answers tended to be vague.

"Politicians want to preserve their flexibility," said Mark Krikorian, director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, which favors stricter immigration enforcement policies. "Immigration is different from a lot of issues because it's not strictly a left-versus-right issue."

Republicans are torn between appeasing a hawkish voter base, which wants the government to crack down on illegal immigration, and the business lobby, which wants to let employers hire illegal immigrants because they will work for less pay, Krikorian said.

Democrats, meanwhile, traditionally advocate for immigrant-friendly reforms but also don't want to sound "too dovish" and lose the support of the average voter, he said.

The Bee sent a list of eight questions to Reps. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced; Jim Costa, D-Fresno; Devin Nunes, R-Visalia; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield; and Denham, R-Mariposa. Only Costa and Cardoza provided responses.

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