After Tuesday’s national debacle, there has been much discussion about the future of our Party. On the right, there has been hand-wringing at demographics that seem to be slipping away from us; on the left, there has been much gleeful giggling at our expense. Clearly, there is reason for us to be concerned. The percentage of white men as a portion of the electorate is shrinking, while the population of nonwhite voters grows faster, and strongly outpaces, the demographics generally considered to be “our base.” Obviously, we must do something to win Latinos into our camp. Does that mean that we need to immediately and readily embrace Democrat-style “comprehensive immigration reform,” in which amnesty and an automatic path to citizenship are the conceded to be the answer?
As the first of my family born in the United States, I say….Not so fast. Practically, and politically, we must be very cautious here, for a number of reasons.
Politics aside, Hispanics in the United States are natural members of the GOP’s big tent. They tend to be religious, and share many of our values on protecting the unborn and upholding the sanctity of marriage. Family values—and the sanctity of the family—are central tenants of their culture, as is an ethos of working hard to support that family. Surely, they don’t want government picking their pocket any more than anyone else does.
The politics of immigration have swept that aside to a large degree, as the Democrat Party has embraced “amnesty,” and an automatic path to citizenship, as the tent-poles of their immigration policy. And, as Speaker Boehner listens to, and apparently accepts, the chorus of voices saying that our Party must move forward and work with Democrats to fix our immigration problem, we must be very careful of how we do it. We must remember that Democrat-style amnesty is not the solution: it is not the solution practically, or politically.
Practically, we cannot and should not accept a solution that rewards lawbreaking, and puts those who have worked hard to come here legally in a weaker position than those who have come here in spite of, and not in compliance to, the laws of the land. Illegal immigrants, if they are to be granted a permanent place in American society, must earn that position the same way legal immigrants do, and must also accept the consequences of their crime (and, lest we forget: illegal immigration is in fact a crime). Further, simply granting a blanket amnesty will open the floodgates to those who seek its benefits but aren’t yet in the country; our border, after all, is still porous, and it must certainly be sealed before we move forward with reform.
But, practical reasons aren’t the only reasons the GOP should be cautious. Politically, a major shift in position after an electoral defeat would be a disaster for our hopes of attracting Latino voters. A shift in policy that follows an electoral defeat will be seen as pandering; Democrats will be seen by the Latinos that voted for them seeking immigration reform as the heroes who bludgeoned the GOP into accepting it. Our Party won’t get any credit, no matter how well intentioned, and no matter how many conservative ideals go into the solution. Those voters who voted for Democrats in the hope of immigration reform will be irrevocably lost, for they will identify with voting against Republicans as the fountainhead of their policy aspirations coming to fruition.
There are many, many sound reasons for the GOP to embrace some sort of comprehensive immigration reform. But that reform does not have to be a Democrat-style amnesty, and it does not have to be a rejection of the supremacy o law, order, and the respect for fairness, that have been the hallmarks of our policy. If we abandon these, and embrace a Democrat-style amnesty platform, it won’t win us any votes, and it certainly won’t help the Country. We can reform our immigration policy, we can fix our borders, and we can work to solve the myriad of issues that decades of illegal immigration have presented. But we shouldn’t be doing it through Democrat policies.