MISSION REJECTED… Why has illegal immigration suddenly taken over American politics? After all, undocumented workers have been coming into this country for decades, and it just wasn’t a terribly big issue ? here in Washington, at least ? two years ago, or four years ago, or six.

A big part of the answer, I think, can be found in a piece we ran last year called “My New Kentucky Home” by journalist Peter Laufer. What’s really changed, Laufer demonstrates, is where immigrants, legal and illegal, settle. Instead of staying in a handful of big cities and border states, as they used to do, immigrants in recent years have been spreading out, to cities and towns that five years ago seldom if ever saw a Latino face. This is true of the western suburbs of St. Louis, where I grew up. When I go back home I get an earful from people in this strongly-Republican area who are shocked at all the burrito places opening up on Manchester Road and all the Spanish-speaking Mexicans they see shopping at Target. As Laufer’s piece shows, this shock is especially keen in the GOP-controlled South. And I suspect it’s that shock that is being reflected now in Washington.

Laufer’s a sharp reporter with a great eye for coming trends. So it’s worth checking out his latest book, Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq for what it has to say about where attitudes towards this war may be heading. Laufer will be speaking in DC this Friday evening at Busboys and Poets along with Markos Moulitsas and other authors from our esteemed friends at Chelsey Green Publishing, so go check him out and buy his book!

Paul Glastris

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly. A former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, he is writing a book on America’s involvement in the Greek War of Independence.