Can Heath Shuler Save America?
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At the age of 10, before I thought about immigration, I still questioned whether newcomers would still maintain their old allegiances. When Redskins hired Norv Turner who had been offensive coordinator of our arch-rival Dallas Cowboys in 1994, he inherited a dismal team with no quarterback and the number three draft pick. He shocked sports fans when he chose Heath Shuler from Tennessee to fill the spot as opposed to Trent Dilfer from Fresno State who was widely considered to be the stronger pick.

My first thought was that Turner was still loyal to Dallas and he intentionally went with the inferior Shuler. Whether I was right about Turner’s motives, Shuler was a huge disappointment. During his three years with the Redskins he started in only 13 games, winning only 9. Trent Dilfer became a Pro-Bowler and Super Bowl Champion. Shuler is considered by many to be the Redskins worst draft pick in history.

When now Democratic Congressman Heath Shuler spoke to the group Progressives for Immigration Reform yesterday, a woman–apparently not aware of his days as a quarterback–said she followed his career. He responded by apologizing to her for his days with the Redskins to much laughter.

Shuler is the hero of many patriotic immigration reformers for being the most vocal Democrat in favor of serious immigration enforcement. With mass immigration unpopular across the spectrum and a Republican Party led by George Bush and John McCain until recently, it’s encouraging to see some take the lead on the issue.

Shuler’s speech focused primarily on the SAVE Act and E-Verify pounding the importance of making sure that American Jobs go to American Workers. I had actually never seen Shuler speak before and he struck me as very intelligent and charismatic.

Nonetheless, I was disappointed by a few points in his speech. When asked about anchor babies, he said that birthright citizenship was in the constitution (which it's not) so there's no point discussing it. Also, I left with the impression that he was much more concerned with implementing E-Verify than stopping amnesty.

If Shuler were a Republican, he’d be seen as a pretty solid on the issue, but not as a hero. Often forgotten is that he was elected by defeating Charles Taylor who had an A+ lifetime rating from Numbers USA and was stronger than Shuler on anchor babies.

With a solid Democratic majority and an increasingly unified Republican Party, the fate of immigration reform lies with the ability of Democrats like Shuler.

Unless he successfully leads other Democrats to stand strong for enforcement and against amnesty, his election in 2006 was nothing but someone good on immigration beating someone who is even better. Let’s wish him the best.

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