We Know It Needs Fixing, But Why Now?

The GOP recently released a plan for immigration reform which has gotten the knickers twisted of the many writers and those who comment here at Redstate. Either this is total capitulation or a deft political move by the House leadership in their roll-out of a blueprint for immigration reform. Given some recent history, this writer believes the House leadership under John Boehner lacks the ability for “deft political moves” thus rendering the fears and worries of many conservatives valid.

Reading some liberal websites like Slate, Salon, The Atlantic and Dailykos, they are portraying this plan as much of the same that has been previously been released by the GOP. Reading several conservative websites, this is at best creating some legal limbo for the estimated 11 million illegals already here- the key sticking point in the immigration debate- and outright amnesty at its worst point. The fact is that the recent history of immigration reform beginning with those under Reagan in 1986 in IRCA lead one to believe that this will be nothing short of amnesty. The practical effects of that well-meaning law was amnesty. Furthermore, actions during the Clinton administration also created amnesty for many more illegals fleeing strife and natural disasters in Central America.

With anything “comprehensive,” two things are evident: the devils of the details and the unintended consequences. One need look no further than Obamacare as proof. IF the House moves forward with this plan, we will have to parse the language and analyze and re-analyze the wording to see where it is going. The problem at this point is that the broad outline is somewhat short on specifics although it gives one the impression it is heading towards some type of amnesty.

The basic problem is that conservatives insist on border security first while liberals insist on dealing with the current crop of illegals first. I have written in the past that there is no reason the two cannot be done simultaneously and linked. Although there are still illegal border crossings, they have decreased by most metrics. The reason is economic, not necessarily enforcement. The improved Mexican economy coupled with the tepid American economic recovery have kept many of those who would have chanced crossing the border in Mexico. The primary reason they come here is for economic opportunity where a minimum wage job in the US is far better than most jobs in Mexico in a bad economy. Furthermore, speaking as a conservative, many other conservatives have failed to mention an important point regarding border security. Realizing that we have to do what we can from our side, there are virtually no calls for the Mexican government to secure their northern border. Placing pressure on Mexico is a must, in my opinion.

Regarding this simultaneous track, this writer has always recognized that something has to be done about the illegals living here AND about border security. Simply from a homeland security perspective, border security takes on added importance. We cannot simply round up and deport every illegal immigrant. But, as Newt Gingrich noted in 2012, there are many here who have been in this country a long time. They are the people patronizing our businesses, possibly sitting next to you in church, and whose children are playing with your children. If we address that subset of the illegal population through some form of a “pathway to citizenship,” then using border security benchmarks to address the remainder, something can be achieved.

As part of this “addressing the long term illegals first” policy, they would naturally have to pass a criminal background check, show English language proficiency, and, if applicable, pay back taxes. In the interim, efforts to locate and deport other illegals continues unabated while border security is strengthened. We then move on to creating some type of guest worker program that is cyclical. The visa would be good for three years and portable and not employer-supported. We previously had a workable immigration system- the Becerra program in the 1950s and 1960s. Then, workers were granted visas that were employer supported (they had to prove they had a job in the US first), but that led to employer abuse. Bringing something like this back- an economic need based system rather than a family reunification-based system- should be the reality of any reform.

As for the politics, already the Democrats and their liberal allies are decrying this proposal insisting on nothing short of “comprehensive.” However, this can be done piecemeal, its effects studied, then move on to the next plank. Writing a 2,000 word law serves no one. The hope is that it creates the perception that the GOP is doing something about immigration reform and “daring” the Democratic leadership in the House to be “obstructionists.” Perhaps, this is the ultimate strategy of Boehner and company (personally, I doubt it). If it is, then it is a shrewd turning of the tables.

That is the general political consideration. In the long term, the hope is that the GOP can garner a larger proportion of the growing Hispanic vote which would increase their chances of electoral victory nationally. Two points about this. First, pandering for the Hispanic vote by using immigration reform is likely to backfire. Democratic/liberal targeting of this constituency is too deep. For whatever reason, Hispanics are drifting towards the Democrats. Generally speaking, Hispanics are conservative and the failure of Republican outreach to this community is disheartening. Regardless, it is highly doubtful that immigration reform will win too many Hispanic votes for the Republican Party now or in the future.

Secondly, immigration reform is not very high on the list of priorities of the American electorate in general. In fact, as I have stated numerous times before, immigration reform ranks no higher than sixth of the list of priorities of Hispanic voters themselves. If you want to win some of the Hispanic vote, look to what they view as their top priorities and at the top is education- not jobs, not wages, not the deficit- but education! Here, the GOP and conservatives have a winning message which is being glossed over- parental choice. Hence, this brings us to the short term political considerations.

By moving to immigration reform now in a midterm election year, Boehner and company are refocusing the discussion away from Obamacare and onto something totally different. In effect, one has to question why they are letting Democrats off the mat? Is this a deliberate attempt to weaken Republican hold of the House and threaten GOP control of the Senate? If so, then John Boehner and company need to go. They may believe they are thinking strategically in the long term, but they are wrong. Even if they get their entire way and some form of limited amnesty or even no amnesty at all is passed, are they under the misguided impression that Democrats will laud the Republican Party? If the goal is long term political strategy, then this can be and should be addressed after the 2014 midterms. If the GOP wants to make inroads both long and short term with the Hispanic community, identify, locate and run Hispanic candidates. Trust me- the Spanish surname coupled with a parental choice educational platform will resonate more with that community than their stance on immigration reform.

In the end, one is left with the impression that John Boehner and the GOP House leadership is perhaps the most inept in recent history. Not to get off the subject, but just recently they passed a nearly $1 trillion farm bill full of pork and subsidies with minimal cuts to food stamps in an allegedly improving economy. In an effort to look like they are doing something and getting things accomplished in Washington, they are selling out to the Democrats. The worst consequence is that they are giving the Democrats a talking point that need not be given. The electorate in 2014 cares about jobs, Obamacare, and the economy, not immigration reform.