Only Nixon Could Go to China, and Only Pence Could Sell Amnesty to the House

Yesterday, Rep. Mike Pence, whom I generally like and agree with, offered his personal plan for legalizing illegal aliens as “the guest-worker plan that conservatives should embrace.” But it is not. There is very little about it that is substantially different from a dozen other plans, except that it is a conservative proposing the “compromise” in this case.

And that is precisely why I believe that Pence’s plan is more dangerous than the other legalization schemes — because it will not be subjected to the same level of skepticism and examination as a compromise produced by Senators Kennedy or McCain or Reid. It is thus more likely to be actually passed by the House in the name of “doing something” on immigration before voters boot its members from office for what they’ve already been doing on immigration. Pence’s position within the conservative movement has served to immunize the proposal from most attacks, but should it be so immune? You be the judge.

In a nutshell, the plan is to allow the 12 million immigration criminals already in America to become legal guest workers, and to remain in the country doing the proverbial jobs that “no American will do” (for the same low wages.) That’s it. That’s the big “outside the box” idea conservatives should allegedly embrace. Rep. Pence, however, claims that his idea is not like the others because of two important details.

One is that the guest worker bureaucracy that would “match willing guest workers with jobs in America that employers cannot fill with American workers” would be run by the private sector. Well, great. But letting businesses decide how many aliens they want to hire is pretty much the system we have now. Pence’s plan simply gives them a license to do so legally and gives the licensed foreign recruitment centers a mushy name, “Ellis Island Centers.” It does offer the real benefit that aliens hired through such centers could be screened, were the government willing to do so. All proposed guest worker plans offer this advantage, however, including the Senate bill.

The second claimed innovation is to have the first guest workers processed through these centers be all the illegal aliens that are in the country now. They would be made legal, given a work visa, and be allowed to stay. Again, that is precisely the same goal as the Senate amnesty plan that conservatives have opposed so passionately. The only real difference is that the Senate not-an-amnesty requires only some immigration criminals to return to their home country with a guarantee of readmission before getting their legal reward, and Representative Pence’s not-an-amnesty requires all of them to return to their home country with a guarantee of readmission before getting their reward.

Now, perhaps I am dense. But if you give them a guarantee of readmission into the United States, what is the point of having them leave the country at all, other than creating a lot of business for Southwest Airlines?

The only real purpose of the amnesty-for-round-trip-tickets scheme is to allow Rep. Pence to claim that it is not an amnesty. Such a claim is only possible because Mr. Pence offers his own definition of amnesty, “Amnesty is allowing people whose first act in America was an illegal act to get right with the law without leaving the country.” Mr. Pence, by contrast, would require that people whose first act in America was an illegal act would have to visit their relatives before they get right with the law. So you can see how that is not an amnesty. That’s the Christmas travel season, then an amnesty.

If this plan had been introduced by anybody else, it would have been justly bludgeoned to death by conservatives on day one. When one judges the plan, and not the man, it fails some basic tests. It’s an amnesty. And it is dishonest or naïve in that it calls the guest workers “temporary.” As I have said before, does anybody really believe that such guests will ever be made to leave? If people do not have the stomach to eject them now, when they are entirely illegal and illegitimate, why are we to believe people will be willing to do so after they have been here legally for more than a decade and have kids in high school?

That’s the plan he proposes. The rest of his 4000 word speech was just the typical platitudes and vignettes that hover over this debate like so much sulfur-laden flatulence. And so I would like to take a quick diversion or two to address a few of the more common of these, because I am quite sick of them.

First, he intones his introduction with the obligatory inscription found on the base of the Statue of Liberty. You know, the guilt-inducing bit we always hear quoted right before someone proposes some mass immigration nonsense: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Let’s get one thing straight: this poem on the Statue of Liberty is not a law, it is not in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence and it is not a national mission statement. It has never even been given the force of a law by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. It is a damn poem, written by a private citizen for fund raising purposes and put on the Statue in a feel-good moment of nostalgia well after the Statue was erected. Using it as a guiding policy for our current political debate makes about as much sense as referring to Michael Jackson’s “We Are the World” during a debate over the United Nations.

Also, while I’m on the subject, the Statue of Liberty does not celebrate immigration. That is revisionist crap. It was a kind, but unsolicited, gift from the French and celebrates Americans’ new freedoms, acquired after we took our independence from England. So in that respect, it celebrates the fact that we got our own borders.

It became a symbol for immigrants because it was the most impressive landmark many saw as they arrived in America via Ellis Island. And Ellis Island was a screening center for aspiring legal immigrants. Those not qualifying for admission into America were forcibly detained there until they could be forcibly deported. That’s why they chose an island on which to build the screening center –so that those who were told “NO, you may not enter our country” could not just run off and get a job for Tyson Chicken or, worse yet, run around spreading typhoid or syphilis or Marxism.

So if you want to make the Statue of Liberty a symbol for our true tradition of immigration, then perhaps it should read:

“Give me your qualified, healthy, and law-abiding newcomers in the numbers and occupational specialties I find most useful for the economic and demographic needs of the United States at this moment in history, and the rest of you can go someplace else. Good luck in Canada.”

Please note that the above inspirational poem carries the same legal weight as the drippy, dreamy, internal propaganda gag-fest that is actually on the Statue which celebrates our borders and island detention facility. So let my poem guide national policy too.

Well, now that that is properly reclaimed for history. Let’s move on to the final sidebar: Rep. Pence’s claim that his proposal represents “the rational middle ground” — an open-border Bushism that Pence uses nine times in his sales pitch, apparently in an effort to convince someone, possibly himself. The middle ground is no more inherently rational than any other position in a debate. If I think that 2+2=4 and Ted Kennedy thinks 2+2=6 (Big Dig Math), the middle ground would be to declare that 2+2=5. But the rational thing to do is to stay true to the facts. That’s the beauty of being correct — as opposed to being a moderate.

The current debate over what to do with immigration criminals is a similar binary situation. We are either going to make them legal or we are not. Any plan in which they are made legal, whether they travel home with a guarantee of readmission or pay a fee or do a little dance, is an amnesty. The details just amount to haggling over price. No immigration limit will be obeyed, no law will be feared, no guest worker will be temporary, no expired visa will be respected, and no end to this debate will occur until we resolve to begin deporting those that are not supposed to be here — just like we did at Ellis Island, our beloved fortified island detention facility. That is not to say we have to have “mass deportations” over one long weekend. We can take our time and do it gradually.

But it has to be done. A reluctance to deport is what created our current massive problem and what drives otherwise intelligent and admirable men like Representative Mike Pence to come up with impractical and tortured amnesty-for-tourism schemes in search of an irrational middle ground that avoids the unpleasant necessity of deportation.