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FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR

We, the citizens of the United States

Ann Coulter tears into Marco Rubio today, and it’s not pretty… but speaking as a longtime fan of the Senator from Florida, I have to admit I’ve been having similar thoughts lately.

Here is how Rubio explained the powerful border-enforcing mechanism in his bill on “Fox News Sunday,” which he denied was merely a meaningless goal:

“Basically, Homeland Security will have five years to meet that goal. If after five years, Homeland Security has not met that number, it will trigger the Border Commission, who will then take over this issue for them.”

So the water torture awaiting the Department of Homeland Security if it fails to secure the border is … ANOTHER GOVERNMENT COMMISSION WILL BE CREATED! Take that, Homeland Security! Ha — we have you now!

The only thing more frightening than “another government commission” is a “strongly worded letter.”

Rubio said his comprehensive immigration plan isn’t amnesty because “amnesty is anything that says ‘do it illegally, it will be cheaper and easier.’” But, he assures us, it’s “cheaper, faster and easier for people to go back home and wait 10 years” — as the law currently requires — “than it will be to go through this process that I’ve outlined.”

Then why is he doing it? If it’s “cheaper, faster and easier” for illegals to apply for citizenship under current law, what exactly does Rubio’s plan accomplish?

To put this another way: the Rubio plan seems very long on promises to the illegal alien community, and very short on enforceable commitments to the actual citizens of the United States.  The security “commitment” is such a joke that I’m starting to feel embarrassed for Rubio every time I hear him talk about it.  Surely he’s aware the Administration is already quite open about its refusal to even measure border security progress, let alone submit to anything worse than a little congressional browbeating over it?  Surely he knows there is absolutely zero point zero percent chance the amnesty bandwagon will be halted because Republicans declare that border security commitments have not been met?

Beyond the absurdity of the bureaucratic slap fight Coulter describes, Rubio is actually handing Democrats a political club they can use to beat his own party into submission… and they will cringe beneath the shadow of that raised cudgel.  Is everyone ready for the ads caricaturing Republicans as heartless monsters because they would dynamite the “pathway to citizenship” over their xenophobic obsession with the border, or deny countless undocumented Americans the tender ministry of the welfare state, or even (horror of horrors) deny the sacred voting franchise to these hard-working dreamers, different only from you or I because they lack a bit of paperwork?  The reason we’re going through this political agony is because the government pronounces itself completely incompetent to track the 11 or 12 million illegals in the country – it’s not even certain of their approximate number.  But now we’re supposed to believe it will carefully weed out the people that absolutely should not be accepted as citizens, or that those people will voluntarily subject themselves to a process that would likely end with deportation?

Also, if we start harvesting taxes from the undocumented community without giving them the vote, isn’t that taxation without representation, even though as a practical matter we know the actual effect of plugging most of them into the tax system will be welfare paid out through tax credits?

How can Senator Rubio believe the end result of “comprehensive immigration reform” will be a process that seems like more of a hassle than decamping for Mexico and getting in line to earn citizenship the old-fashioned way?

Let’s bring this back to the essential principle so many seem to have lost sight of: law in the United States should be made for the benefit of citizens of the United States.  Sorry if that sounds a bit harsh, but there it is.  There is nothing selfish, xenophobic, etc. about citizens expecting their legislators and executives to act, first and foremost, in their interest.

Instead, in the current debate over immigration reform – and really, in every previous debate, because we’ve been here so many times before – the interests of the U.S. citizen are an afterthought.  If we’re lucky, a blue-ribbon panel might convene in a few years to mourn all the faith that was broken with us… leaving minutes for the next blue-ribbon broken promise panel to leaf through when it convenes, a few years after that.

The citizens of the United States are not even allowed to speak clearly about illegal aliens any more; they can be called neither “illegal” nor “aliens.”  (If comprehensive immigration reform goes through, they won’t really be “undocumented” any more; what will we be instructed to call them?)  Our media openly resolves to change the way we think about them, through its use of language and choice of coverage.  No one seems to be giving any thought to changing the way illegal aliens think about us.

There lies the essence of citizenship, which is by no means reserved to people born in America.  We have a very active system of legal immigration.  Our arms have always been open to the world, and always will be.  But when the world gives us its tired, poor, huddled masses, they must immediately begin obeying our laws.  That is the nature of citizenship: rights plus responsibility, inseparable from one another.  To be honest, quite a few native-born Americans could use a refresher course on that concept, and many legal immigrants would be well-qualified to teach it.

The point of this submission to American law – the point of immigrating, rather than invading – is to teach each citizen what it means to be American, and secure their complete acceptance.  This is part of the vital process of securing the consent of the governed.  The governed must understand what they are consenting to, and give that consent willingly.  Presumably native-born citizens undergo this process throughout their education.  (We can mourn the inadequacy of our current public education system another time, but that’s how it’s supposed to work.)

Every nation needs a chance to qualify its immigrants before accepting them as citizens – this is a commitment made by lawful and responsible government to existing citizens.  The failure to honor this commitment is an unacceptable failure of the State.  We live now with the results of decades in which such failure was indulged.  The “undocumented” did not give their consent to be governed.  Violating the integrity of our borders actively denies such consent.

A process of conditional citizenship easier than proper immigration undermines the task of assimilation.  A process harder than proper immigration is pointless – and disingenuous, because we the citizens of the United States are wearily familiar with how all this works, and we know that even if our new pathway to citizenship begins with tougher requirements than proper immigration, they will soon enough be waived, under enormous political pressure.

I like Marco Rubio, and would like to see his optimism and charisma invested in more profitable pursuits.  But his immigration proposal asks the citizens of the United States to accept too many promises we know our government will not keep, and that’s before the full legislative machinery of Congress gets to work making those promises even less meaningful.

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