Haley Barbour, 2012, and the Need for a Focus on Illegal Immigration

Haley Barbour has been under fire for his stance on immigration after Time Magazine published a Justice Department filing showing that Barbour lobbied for amnesty.  The filings show that Barbour was part of a lobbying team that was commissioned by the Mexican embassy to lobby for a pathway to citizenship for illegals in 2001.

Here are some of the details about the amnesty provisions that he was seeking.

At the time, Mexico was seeking an extension of a provision that allowed undocumented immigrants living in the United States to receive legal visas or green cards without returning to their country of origin, provided they pay an additional fine. In practice, the provision generally helped out undocumented family members of legal immigrants or undocumented immigrants who were eligible for visas based upon certain job skills. Without the provision in place, undocumented immigrants who received legal papers had to return to their country of origin, for three or 10 years, before returning to the U.S. The Congressional Research Service estimated that an extension would put benefit about 300,000 undocumented immigrants.

At first, I was hesitant to excogitate any further on this issue because it appeared to be yet another hatchet job on Haley Barbour from the liberal media.  Any conservative must always be circumspect of any liberal exposé about a conservative deviating from conservatism.  After all, they certainly have no penchant for our views.

However, Barbour’s public statement regarding the Time Magazine article is disingenuous and disconcerting for those of us who are deeply concerned about illegal immigration.  Here is his response:

One reason I’ve been successful as Governor is that I’m plain-spoken and use common sense.  I tell people what I think, not what I think they want to hear. Before there can be immigration reform, we must secure our borders.  Only after that can any reforms be achieved, and those can’t include amnesty. Everybody knows we are not going to put ten or twelve million people in jail and deport them.  Once the border is secure, we should develop a responsible guest-worker program and it can’t include amnesty.

This issue position statement on immigration is the precise zero sum, straw man, argument that is promulgated by the left every day.  They present the false choice between rounding up every last illegal and offering a pathway to citizenship.  Even the Democrats know that amnesty is unpopular, so they couch their support for legalization with the disclaimer of support for border security and opposition to amnesty.  We are all cognizant of the fact that such advocates of legalization cannot be trusted in their support for secure borders first.  After all, Barbour never denies lobbying for such an eventuality even though the borders were wide open in 2001.  It is clear that no politician who espouses the “we can’t round them all up” bromide, is truly committed to border security.

The reality is that there is a third option to solving the illegal immigration policy; attrition through genuine and inexorable enforcement of our immigration laws.  Haven’t these people seen the results of Arizona’s S.B. 1070?  Even prior to its enforcement, thousands of illegals were reported to be migrating from Arizona.  Imagine how effective enforcement would be if it were implemented prudently on a federal level?  How can one despair over the likelihood of ending illegal immigration while we are still granting them welfare, education, housing, and jobs?

I have a deal for those who purpose a pathway to citizenship.  We have already tried your idea in 1986 and that resulted in 2 million aliens metastasizing into 13 million.  Let’s try mandating E-verify, Real ID, ending birthright citizenship, cutting off all social welfare and education, and fully supporting the enforcement efforts of the states through the 287(g) program.  If the illegal population doesn’t decrease dramatically, then we can begin debating your obsolete and inefficacious policies.

Seriously, can’t we evaluate this issue intelligently, without the platitudes and false choices of the left?

As we head into the presidential primary election, we must realize that immigration (both legal and illegal) is one of the most important issues, and any perspective candidate must deal with it properly.  While we all focus on fiscal austerity and the deficits, we must not forsake our borders.  Immigration encompasses fiscal, economic, national security, and cultural concerns.  We cannot continue to import 1 million illegals, in addition to the 1.2 million legal immigrants annually.

It is quite evident that we will never nominate someone who is completely infallible, but a candidate with a dismal record on immigration is to big an infraction to overlook.

I am a big fan of Haley Barbour, and love his straight talking, folksy demeanor (as well as his accent).  But, we cannot abrogate our commitment to borders and immigration laws.  We must ensure that there is a vigorous debate between the prospective candidates regarding immigration, and that it is not obfuscated by the other pressing policy concerns.

We already know where Newt Gingrich stands on the issue, and it is not on our side.  Mitch Daniels has also been a bit skittish on this issue, as he remains deafeningly silent concerning the immigration bill that is pending in the Indiana legislature.  Does he intend to call for a truce on this issue as well as social issues?  I don’t want to read to much into his silence.  However, part of the problem is that there is so much silence on this issue in the first place.  Each candidate must be given an opportunity to convey his views on border security in an unambiguous manner, so that Republican primary voters will be presented with a clear choice.

Ultimately, if we cannot control our own sovereignty, there will be no need to control the federal deficit.

Cross-posted to Red Meat Conservative