FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Illegal Immigration and the Pesky GOP Base
When Lucy kept tricking Charlie Brown with the football, at least she pretended to place the football on the ground each time he kicked it. Obama has never even pretended to start enforcing our immigration laws, yet one Republican after another is committing to amnesty – I mean pathway to citizenship – I mean – never mind. In fact, as Republicans are committing to legalization now in return for a promise of enforcement later, Obama is letting thousands of criminal aliens out of jail. This is not a recipe for repeating the mistakes of 1986; this is a recipe for perpetual lawlessness.
Most conservatives would love to solve this issue once and for all and put it in the rear view mirror. Conservatives want to put an end to the cynical use of our immigration system to import welfare recipients and Democrat voters. But there are two fundamental flaws with every proposal – form the House and Senate Gang of Ochos to the Rand Paul Gang of Uno.
First, enforcement is not a legislative problem; it is an administrative problem, and to some extent, a judicial problem. How can Republicans float a ‘legalization for enforcement’ deal while Obama is refusing to enforce any law, is letting criminal aliens out of jail, and is suing states for enforcing laws? Why are they agreeing to concessions without a parallel commitment from Obama to build the physical fence, pursuant to the law passed in 2006?
Hence, the entire premise of amnesty for enforcement in the current climate of lawlessness is as vacuous as the promise of spending cuts in exchange for tax hikes. You can only ‘trust but verify’ if there’s something or someone to trust. And what are you going to do if we all agree that the points of entry are not secure after the legalized status has been granted? Will anyone seriously invalidate the visas in the probationary status? Unless the amnesty component is passed after the enforcement has already been implemented, effective, and cleared with the courts, we will have another wave of illegal immigration to take advantage of the probationary status.
Second, how to we prevent any legalization, albeit with some limitations, from turning into a bidding war with Democrats, with those limitations becoming the next goal post and political football? Once they become legal, there is no practical way Republicans could prevent them from benefiting from the welfare state in short order. In 2007, Robert Rector estimated that the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill would cost roughly $2.6 trillion. Remember that was before the gutting of welfare reform and the massive eligibility expansions under Obama.
Even without any legalization, illegal immigrants are eligible to receive the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit using a loophole with IRS filing. That already costs us $24 billion over 10 years. That figure accounts for just 2.18 million illegals. It will be laughable to see how much the treasury hands out in refundable tax credits when the amnesty recipients apply to pay back taxes. Ironically, the “penalty” of “paying” back taxes is being sold as the provision that makes any legalization/path to citizenship not amnesty.
Rand Paul said it best earlier this year: “I do agree with Milton Friedman: You can’t have open borders in a welfare state. We’ve got a pretty considerable welfare state. So it’s not just about normalizing the 11 or 12 million here, it’s whether or not, while you’re doing that, another 11 or 12 million come in, and I think that will bankrupt the country.”
45.3 percent of households headed by a Mexican immigrant reported using food stamps, compared to 24.1 percent of all immigrant household heads and 13.9 percent for the native-born population. You simply can’t have amnesty for illegals and unlimited legal immigration from the third world without first enacting welfare reforms.
Ultimately, the conservative opposition to the ‘whatever you want to call it’ proposals will persist as long as those concerns are not addressed in a serious manner. It’s incumbent upon Republican supporters of Obama’s immigration policy to explain why it is beneficial to conservatives and in line with their principles. It would be nice if these people would stop running in Republican primaries talking about “building the dang fence” and then turning around and undergoing a cathartic change several months later.
This doublespeak on immigration is getting tiresome. It’s high time for these people to man up and run on their proposals during the primaries. If they really believe in the veracity of their arguments, why not use the same patronizing language lecturing conservatives about their attitude on the issue while running for office? Why not engage in their Spanish language-pandering and Democrat parlance (“undocumented workers”) while on the stump seeking the GOP nomination in their states? They should stop lying about their policy positions just three months before coming out of the closet and proposing ideas antithetical to the ones they campaigned on. If you’re not willing to sell your position to the base voters in a primary, then find a different party.
We all agree that we need to promote our message of limited government, free market populism, and rugged individualism to every voter, including but not limited to those of Hispanic descent. But I’ve got news for you: immigration policy is about more than one ethnic group. Issues pertaining to immigration, border security, and national sovereignty are bigger than any one demographic. They must be evaluated on their own merits, not based on some false allurement of electoral success. And at this point, with this administration, conservatives outside of Washington are not seeing any merits in these proposals. If they did, some of our esteemed senators and congressmen would have run a very different campaign to win their nominations.