First let me thank Mr. Brian Johnson (no relation) for thoroughly reading my earlier criticism of Rep. Mike Pence’s not-an-amnesty immigration proposal, and believing it was important enough to dedicate a response to it.
Now let me respond to several of the points in Brian Johnson’s article.
1) I was wrong to reject Rep. Pence’s proposal so quickly, especially given his bona fides as a conservative legislator.
As the debate over late-term abortion shows, it is sometimes important to kill things quickly, lest they take on a life all their own. Rejecting Mr. Pence’s misguided proposal was a similar case. I stayed up writing way past my bedtime the day Mr. Pence launched his public relations campaign specifically because I wanted to publicly reject the notion that Mr. Pence’s plan was “the conservative plan.”
It may be a plan by a conservative, but it is not a conservative plan. Good people sometimes do strange things during the heat of a debate they wish to bring to a premature close. And to borrow a phrase from our friends, the insane left wing kooks, “not in my name” did Mr. Pence speak. Also, unlike wine, cheese or catfish bait, Mr. Pence’s proposal seems unlikely to me to improve with age. It is what it is, and it’s bad.
2) More than any other proposal, Pence’s plan goes further toward bridging the gap between the liberal Senate immigration bill and the enforcement-first House immigration bill.
Much like the English Channel in 1942, some gaps are best left un-bridged. The negotiating position of the House of Representatives is NOT improved by Mr. Pence breaking ranks before the negotiations have even begun. Mr. Pence’s unsolicited and ill-timed Rodney King moment (“Can’t we all just get along?”) has made it much more likely that a bad bill, containing a de facto amnesty and a guest worker provision, will result. Mr. Pence, build back up this wall.
3) Mr. Pence’s plan to have immigration criminals briefly return home, with a guarantee of readmission, before receiving their guest worker amnesty is more than just a cheap political stunt, but will have real psychological effects on those aliens that choose to ride the trans-border merry-go-round.
If it’s psychological effects you’re after, try deportation without a guarantee of readmission. Punishment should feel bad. The amnesty for tourism scheme will just make immigration criminals feel good about finally possessing legally what they at first only stole. Giving a car thief the title to the car may give him pride of ownership, but who cares?
4) Mr. Pence’s plan is in tune with “political realities.”
See, I knew it was bad. More mischief has been facilitated in the name of “political realities” than in any other name, except “Kennedy.” Political realities gave us the Medicare prescription drug boondoggle, Bush’s record expansion of domestic spending, our current illegal immigration fiasco, a response to Hurricane Katrina that looked like Huey P. Long wrote the relief bill, and, oh yeah, Harriet Miers.
As the last example teaches, political reality is what we make of it. Sticking to your guns and being willing to take a fight to the bitter end often wins you more than quick compromise. If ever there was a case in which a fight to the end was merited, the immigration debate is it. We could lose our country in this debate. The original plan coming out of the Senate would have brought in hundreds of millions of new immigrants within just 20 years.
There is one point in Brian Johnson’s response that I wholeheartedly agree with, however: “the tendency of nearly every stakeholder to hold hostage the one supposedly agreed-upon necessity—border security—to their own narrow interests.”
It is time for this to end. And there is only one bill that proposes to increase security markedly, without entangling the security measures in debates over amnesty, or legal immigration quotas, or guest worker plans — and that is H.R. 4437. This is the bill passed by the House that Mr. Pence seeks to compromise upon, by entangling it with other nonsense, such as a guest worker amnesty.
It would be better to pass no bill than to pass a bad bill. If some senators want to explain to people that they did not pass increased border security (H.R. 4437), because they wanted to continue to hold it hostage to pet projects and amnesty, then let them. Mr. Pence’s approach is not to issue an ultimatum that we can no longer hold border security hostage to other matters, but instead to simply try to negotiate a better ransom price.
Therefore, his bill, however well intentioned, remains wrong.
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