Immigration is probably the most confusing topic of concern for conservatives today. What makes it confusing is the inconsistent usage of the word “amnesty,” a word which cannot seem to find a singular definition. For that reason, it is time for conservatives to abandon the “amnesty” buzzword and start looking at policy specifics, which is really what they should have done to start with.
As the 2016 Republican primary approaches, conservatives are going to have to do without a champion of the “deport them all” ideology. There simply isn’t anyone positioning themselves to run who supports that strain of policy.
There is a good reason for that. In this day and age, it would be impossible politically, legally, and practically to remove the 20 million illegal immigrants who live here. Politically, it would ensure Republicans lose Congress and the Presidency for at least a decade, if not longer. Legally, civil liberties and discrimination lawsuits would abound. Practically, we have simply let the problem grow too large to be dealt with the way many would wish.
Understanding that “deporting them all” is not going to happen, conservatives need to look at the two basic alternatives.
The first alternative is anti-comprehensive and necessitates that reform be done step-by-step. It requires that the southern border be completely and physically secure before doing anything else. It addresses the problems with our visa system and keeping track of those who come to work. By doing these two things, illegal immigration can be effectively ended once and for all. It is pro-immigration, understanding that critical industries such as agriculture and construction need cheap, hard working labor and other, more technological industries need the brightest minds to work for their companies. For this reason, legal immigration would be encouraged and streamlined and guest workers would encouraged to come. In dealing with the millions of illegals already here, this alternative proposes that most non-violent illegal immigrants be given a legal status, but not citizenship. Citizenship is a non-starter for two reasons. First, it means a massive underclass would immediately be eligible to further drain the welfare system. Secondly, it means a massive amount of pro-government voters will be added to the rolls. This alternative is the most palatable for conservatives and is full of common sense.
The second alternative is no doubt familiar to most. It is called comprehensive immigration reform, and it was embodied by the infamous “Gang of 8” immigration bill. This approach does not ensure that the border is physically secure. It does increase some aspects of security, but largely just increases funding for the Border Patrol. Like the first alternative, it would lead to an improved visa system and it is pro-immigration as well. But unlike the first approach, the second alternative offers citizenship to illegal immigrants. For the reasons stated above, citizenship is incredibly problematic. And to add to those reasons, it should be noted that while measures such as granting a legal status show compassion, citizenship bypasses compassion and demonstrates unfairness to legal immigrants who have become citizens and those who are waiting in line to become citizens. While under the first alternative illegal immigrants could obviously apply for citizenship at the back of the line, this proposal would put illegal immigrants at the front of the line. For all of the reasons mentioned, this alternative would not be acceptable to conservatives. There is a reason why this is the proposal preferred by Democrats.
If you look at who is actively looking to run for President from the right, you see [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ], [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ], [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] and Scott Walker.
Cruz and Paul fall under the first alternative. There has been some miscommunication among many on the right with these two. Let me assure you that [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] does not support the “deport them all” strategy. Let me also assure you that [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] does not support citizenship for illegals. These series of misconceptions highlight why it is more important to look at press releases as opposed to media dissemination. Both Senators offered amendments (which everyone should review for more detail than what I will provide below) during the Gang of 8 debate which demonstrated their positions and have made comments about their positions which can be found if you look for them.
I won’t waste space quoting Cruz and Paul about their support for a border fence, a better legal immigration system, etc. But I want to make it abundantly clear that they are indeed both for a legal status and against citizenship.
What Mr. Cruz has tried to articulate in both word and deed is a middle ground. It got no support from Democrats in Washington, but it goes further than many on the far right want to go by offering leniency to undocumented immigrants here already: A path to legal status, but not to citizenship. A green card with no right to naturalization.
Immigration-reform legislation from the Senate’s so-called Gang of Eight passed that chamber in June and includes a 13-year path to citizenship. Mr. Cruz pushed unsuccessfully for amendments that would have, among other things, eliminated the citizenship component.
Asked about what to do with the people here illegally, however, he stressed that he had never tried to undo the goal of allowing them to stay.
“The amendment that I introduced removed the path to citizenship, but it did not change the underlying work permit from the Gang of Eight,” he said during a recent visit to El Paso. Mr. Cruz also noted that he had not called for deportation or, as Mitt Romney famously advocated, self-deportation.
Mr. Cruz said recent polling indicated that people outside Washington support some reform, including legal status without citizenship. He said he was against naturalization because it rewarded lawbreakers and was unfair to legal immigrants. It also perpetuates illegal crossings, he added.
One Paul adviser told The Post that the path Paul is endorsing does not make it any easier to attain citizenship than current law allows.
“They would get into the back of the line and get no special privileges to do so,” said the adviser, who was not authorized to comment publicly. “What his plan is extending to them is a quicker path to normalization, not citizenship, and being able to stay, work and pay taxes legally.”
Later Tuesday, Paul attempted to clarify his position on the citizenship question. “I didn’t use the word citizenship at all this morning,” he said. “Basically what I want to do is to expand the worker visa program, have border security and then as far as how people become citizens, there already is a process for how people become citizens. The main difference is I wouldn’t have people be forced to go home. You’d just get in line. But you get in the same line everyone is in.”
By contrast, Rubio and Walker fall under the second alternative.
Of course, everyone remembers that perhaps the most vocal advocates for the Gang of 8 immigration bill was [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ].
But most conservatives likely aren’t aware that Scott Walker is in line with Rubio on this issue:
“If people want to come here and work hard and benefit, I don’t care whether they come from Mexico or Ireland or Germany or Canada or South Africa or anywhere else,” Walker said Tuesday during an interview with the Daily Herald Media Editorial Board of Wisconsin. “I want them here.”
Walker was then asked about the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally. The editorial board asked if he could “envision a world where with the right penalties and waiting periods and meet the requirements where those people could get citizenship?”
“Sure,” Walker responded. “I mean I think it makes sense.”
For conservatives concerned about immigration in the 2016 election, this much is clear: [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] and [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] support the best possible alternative to what we are doing today. By contrast, [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] and Scott Walker are playing right into the hands of the Democrats.