Senator Marco Rubio was gracious enough to engage our conservative community with his thoughtful comments on his framework for immigration reform. I’d like to respond to some of the points made in his post.
- “and we have by some estimates as many as 11 million human beings living in the United States without the proper immigration documents in a state of de facto amnesty.”
The first step in proposing a solution is being honest about the problem. If someone feels that granting amnesty, or even more – full blown citizenship – to illegal immigrants is a prudent idea, then admit that is what you’re doing and be forthright about it. By consistently using the parlance of the left – “undocumented “ - as if it were some natural disaster, is disingenuous.
In the very first line describing the Gang of 8’s “four legislative pillars” it says their plan would “create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States…” That means amnesty. Those words—“path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants” mean amnesty. Again, you might feel it’s a prudent idea, but it is amnesty nonetheless.
- “On the political front, a growing number of voters of Asian and Hispanic descent have been convinced by the left that conservative opposition to immigration reform equates to being anti-immigrant. This is unfair, and it is untrue. But they have pulled it off and, as a result, our ability to convince these fast-growing communities that the principles of limited government and free enterprise are better for them than big government and collectivism has been impaired.”
I’d like to talk about sound policy, but if we are going to do this for political reasons, does Senator Rubio have any evidence to show that the new amnestied immigrants will not vote at least 80/20 Democrat? Is there any evidence that we will enjoy a net gain with the current Latino voting population? Remember, Democrats have signed onto this plan precisely because they believe it will create a permanent Democrat majority. Yes, we need to articulate our message for limited government to all people. But let’s not fool ourselves, it’s an uphill battle fighting through the allure of the dependency state. Let’s deal with those we already have, instead of granting voting rights to millions more low-skilled immigrants, who are strongly predispositioned to vote Democrat, irrespective of how enthusiastically we embrace a path to citizenship.
- “The economic ramifications, however, are even more serious. For example, our technology sector creates roughly 120,000 computer engineering jobs a year, but our universities only graduate about 40,000 students a year in that field. The long term answer, of course, is to get more American students to graduate in this field. But the immediate problem is that, in the absence of an immigration system where these workers can be brought here, these jobs are sent overseas to them.”
If this is truly a bipartisan concern, why don’t we fix that now? Why do the legal immigration reforms have to be held hostage for a “comprehensive” amnesty bill? Let’s first pass the things we all agree upon.
- “Another example is in agriculture, where a stable and affordable domestic supply of food is critical to our national security and our quality of life. Agriculture has always required a significant work force from abroad, but we do not have a system through which growers and dairies can bring a workforce legally into the U.S.”
It is true that many conservatives from heavily agriculture districts have expressed concerns that there are not enough visas granted for temporary migrant workers. But we could solve that with a temporary worker visa program (after we implement a visa tracking system). Instead, the framework which you signed onto would not only grant them a path to citizenship, but a fast track path along with the “Dreamers.” That is a gratuitous and superfluous addition to the requests of those working in agriculture.
- “The principles I have proposed to deal with this issue are not perfect, but I believe they create a framework for dealing with this reality in a responsible and reasonable way. And I think conservatives have already won important concessions from Democrats that we can build on to shape the actual legislation.”
The Senator goes on to explain how we now have Democrats conceding to enforcement with triggers. This is a concession? Democrats said the same thing with the McCain-Kennedy bill, which was strongly opposed by then-candidate Rubio. They will never publically say that they oppose enforcement. All we need to do is watch their actions. Moreover, Schumer said emphatically that there are no preconditions for an immediate legal status. That will take place right away. Once they are all legal, there will be no way to stop the train. Finally, as we’ve stated before, enforcement is not a legislative problem. All of these laws are already on the books. It is an executive and judicial problem. We need to see the enforcement measures actually implemented and working, along with the blessing of the courts, before we proceed to any legalization.
Had the Democrats signed onto a document charting new territory, such as a commitment to end anchor babies and allow states to enforce the laws, then there would have been a meaningful concession. Instead, it is only our side making dramatic concessions.
- “We even got President Obama to concede that undocumented immigrants who avail themselves of this program will not be eligible for federal benefits, including Obamacare, during their lengthy non-immigrant status.”
Again, wait until the courts get ahold of this. Also, how long is the “lengthy non-immigrant status?” This does nothing to deal with the long-term welfare problem that will ensue from granting them green cards and citizenship. Furthermore, how will you avoid the bidding war? Even if Obama doesn’t move the bill to the left, Democrats will accept this only as the first step. Once they are granted the legal status, it will be even easier for them to become a political football by making welfare and a quicker path to citizenship the next civil rights issues.
Overall, the Senator is correct in asserting that we must preemptively lay out our conservative principles on this critical issue. However, that would require conservatives to first work amongst ourselves crafting a statement of principles as to what is acceptable on the issues of preconditions, welfare, and legal immigration. Working together with far-left Democrats on a plan, which Senator McCain passionately believes is the original Kennedy plan, does not present the American people with a bold contrast – putting aside the Washingtonian nuances and gimmicks. And as is the case with every other issue, we are suffering from a lack of articulation of bold contrasts.