All of TV and the blogosphere were abuzz today with discussion of Newt’s immigration proposal. The initial take of commentators was that Newt had an excellent debate night, and then slipped near the end and possibly destroyed his campaign. Even Rush this morning said that the proposal had potential and it’s too bad Newt didn’t work out the details before blurting it out.
And then, a few hours later, this shows up on Newt.org:
Take a look at that detailed plan and tell me it was done overnight – because it wasn’t. Romney has been running for four years, and doesn’t have an immigration plan. Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen: this was all carefully laid down, and we’re witnessing one of the greatest political masterstrokes in recent years.
First off, consider the timing: all over the country, people are today travelling long distance to be with family. It’s a time when we count our blessings, a time of gratitude and generosity. It’s hard to imagine a more receptive setting for such ideas than the discussion around the Thanksgiving table.
Second, the delivery was masterful. With all the caveats, with all the talk of taking the heat, Newt made it sound as though he was reviving the Bush/McCain amnesty proposals. Romney jumped right in, and missed the crucial detail that there was no path to citizenship involved. A path to citizenship that, as the Gingrich campaign serendipitously (yeah right!) found out and tweeted minutes after the debate, had been in fact supported by Romney himself a couple of years back. I’d almost feel sorry for Mittens… if it wasn’t for the poetic justice of him being caught in exactly this kind of trap.
Because, my friends, to stand against Newt’s (truly modest) proposal on rigidly doctrinaire “no amnesty” ground is simply untenable. Consider: there is somewhere, right now, an old undocumented grandma cooking a turkey for two generations of American citizens. Gingrich is saying that, if grannie passes a local citizen review board, has no criminal record, and pays a fine that’s at least five grand, he wants to give her a legal status with no path to citizenship. The only way to disagree with that is to say that no, grannie deserves instead to be dumped by herself into Ciudad Juarez; care to make that case to the American public?
Newt has thus brilliantly exposed that there is a line to be drawn somewhere among the twelve million. Some may draw it very narrowly, and only leave a few thousand old grandmas on the legalization side; others may take more roots into account; there is, in any case, a vivid debate to be had about the exact criteria. But Newt has shown very eloquently that it’s politically impossible (and morally indefensible) to put absolutely all illegal immigrants into the same bin.
Now you may wonder why would Newt bring up such a thing and possibly create confusion among conservatives at a time when we’re supposed to be preparing Obama’s change of residence instead. And I believe the Romney-baiting was a nice side benefit, but it is the general election that was the real point – specifically, of course, the Latino vote.
It’s been said many times, and by people far smarter than yours truly, that the Latino voters’ family and religious values and their work ethic make them a very natural constituency for the Republican Party. And yet even Bush only managed to get 44% of the Latino vote. Now why would the average Jose vote against his values like that? The truth is, I think, that he doesn’t: he votes for his family values, and he has family, friends, or friends’ family who are here illegally. All the Democrats have to do to scare poor Jose is to say that look, Republicans will enforce the existing laws, and if they get elected then the Border Patrol will swoop down upon your friends and relatives and take them to the land of the Zetas.
What gives these accusations the ring of plausibility is that many Republicans these days will refuse to even talk about anything else except “securing the border” and “enforcing the existing laws”. And it is true that the border needs to be secured first; but as long as we do not also come forward with a plan for what to do afterwards about the twelve million, the Latino voters will keep assuming the worst and believe these Democrat innuendos.
And, let us be realistic, the saddest part of the situation is that “enforcing the existing laws” is just empty talk at this point. They may have been enforceable once: that time is a few decades in the past. Strict enforcement of the law means expulsion for twelve million, which is, if nothing else, logistically impossible under any realistic time frame or budget constraints. The people who promote such a solution shout loudly and carry a tiny stick, with the only practical effect of irresponsibly pushing Latino voters, by the millions, into Obama, Pelosi and Reid’s arms.
This is where the genius of the Gingrich immigration plan comes in. He wants all the illegal immigrants who have strong ties to Latino voters to have a chance to make their case in front of a citizen commission drawn from the local community. This places no undue pressure on the enforcement agencies, and lets each community decide to what extent it’s been hurt by illegal immigration and which illegals are due on the first bus to Mexico, while also extracting fines to compensate for the economic damage and for unpaid back taxes.
Now this is what I call a solution. It finally lets us move forward on a problem that’s been around for decades. It’s easy to implement, has an excellent chance of working, helps the economy, and finally allows the average Latino voter to breathe easily about undocumented grandma’s status, and to vote for the party that best represents her conservative moral values instead.
I’ve barely covered a few of the issues here. There’s a lot more to Newt’s immigration plan and I really recommend spending half an hour and reading all of it. There are many other goodies I haven’t even mentioned, and the plan has clearly been a long time in the making. It is a practical, humane, efficient solution for the immigration problem, and a great Obama- and Democrat-destroying weapon for the general election.
Way to go, Newt.