Republican immigration reform: Legal status, but not citizenship

Ann Coulter has already covered the political realities of what the bizarre Republican push for “immigration reform” will do to the party.  (Short version: it’s suicide, and anyone who thinks otherwise is either incredibly optimistic or deeply dishonest.)

To put things in blunt terms, the Ruling Class – which very definitely has a Republican contingent – wants amnesty.  The new citizens will provide nearly irresistible political muscle for Big Government, which is just fine by the Republican wing of the Ruling Class, and the cheap labor is good for certain business interests.

There is also an ideological tendency to regard immigration law as distasteful, while those who insist upon fidelity to the law are looked down upon as bigots and xenophobes.  That sneering attitude is politically useful to the Left, and psychologically addictive.  Being able to write off a huge, generally conservative-leaning portion of the electorate as troglodytes is easy and fun.  Multicultural theorists regard borders as archaic relics of a bygone nationalist era.  Physical border security systems bear a necessary but uncomfortable resemblance to prison walls and guards.

Also, Big Government’s inability to deal with the illegal immigration problem in a rational, lawful way is very embarrassing for statists.  They need Americans to believe that the government can manage health care for 300 million Americans, but is utterly incapable of handling 10 million violators of the border.  That contradiction is difficult to resolve, so the statists would like to make the illegal immigration problem go away, by erasing the “illegal” part.  Concrete examples of government ineptitude make them uncomfortable.

Illegal immigrants have a human face, while those injured by border violation are kept invisible.  You’ll notice the national media tries not to spend a lot of time interviewing people who live in the big soft spots on the southern border, or talking about other crimes committed by border violators.  Nothing makes them change the subject faster than asking what happens to an already tight, high-unemployment labor market when millions of new legal job-seekers are added to the mix.  The personalization of this issue is almost entirely one-sided; no humanity is associated with the case for serious immigration policy.

Few messages are beamed into the faces of Republican politicians with more intensity by the media than the urgent need to pass “comprehensive immigration reform” to win a larger share of the Latino vote.  Rarely has conventional wisdom been written in larger letters with thicker ink.  Some Republicans worry about the negative political value of the issue, believing that Latino voters won’t listen to anything else they have to say until they get immigration off the table.  I tend to think that concern is very overstated – among other things, a legal immigrant who did the hard work of earning citizenship properly has no reason to be cheered by the sight of illegal aliens getting a special deal.  But there’s always the fear that immigration reform has been framed in such a way that opposing amnesty is dangerous for politicians.  The chance they’ll say something that can be used against them is too high.

As for positive political benefits from amnesty, one should never underestimate the desire of some Republicans to prove how warm, compassionate, and “in touch” they are.  They’re dead wrong about the benefits they’ll receive from championing amnesty proposals – they can never hope to out-pander the Democrats, while the belief that the media culture will somehow reward Republican leaders for their empathy and generosity is a textbook example of hope trumping experience.

Skeptics of the GOP leadership wonder if they’re capable of thinking more than one move ahead.  Don’t they realize that giving up 25 percent of what the Left wants will swiftly lead to their denunciation as monsters for withholding the other 75 percent?  The day after quasi-citizenship is instituted, it will be denounced as apartheid.  There is no way the Left will stop until every illegal alien in the United States is a full citizen with voting rights and access to all government programs.  They’re not going to applaud Republicans for slowly giving them what they want; they’ll complain about how long it’s taking.  I have never seen politicians set themselves up for a fall more perfectly than the Republican clay pigeons who think “limited status with no special pathway to citizenship” is going to end an argument or solve a political problem for them.

Meanwhile, it will alienate the Republican base.  There isn’t much else they could do that would minimize Democrat losses in 2014 more efficiently.  To elements of the GOP that see themselves as fighting a power struggle with conservatives and Tea Party insurgents for control of a rump party, that’s a feature, not a bug.  They’re not too worried about the dangers of a third party, as long as they get to run the second party.

So for all of these reasons, immigration reform remains one of the top priorities for the Ruling Class, even though it’s barely on the radar screen for the American people.  There are a dozen other matters they want the federal government to address more urgently, but voters will be forced to sit and watch the Beltway’s energies poured into the long-running immigration drama.

Thus, the Washington Post brings word of the Republican leadership’s shiny new “immigration principles”:

House Republican leaders said Thursday for the first time that they would be open to allowing the nation???s 11 million illegal immigrants to live and work legally in the United States, but they emphasized that most would not be offered a ???special path??? to achieve citizenship.

The announcement was made at a GOP retreat in Cambridge, Md., where Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) distributed a two-page list of broad immigration principles to his membership for private discussions. The document represented the leadership???s first attempt to outline a vision for how to address an overhaul of border control laws, seven months after the Senate approved a far-reaching bipartisan plan in June.

The House principles were being parsed by the White House, congressional Democrats and advocacy groups to determine whether there was a chance of achieving a major immigration deal that has eluded lawmakers for decades. The mood among most interest groups, and key Democratic leaders, was one of guarded optimism.

The reason a new deal has “eluded lawmakers for decades” is that the last one was an utter disaster.  Hope once again flings Experience to the mat, climbs to the highest rope, and leaps down upon her vanquished foe with an atomic elbow drop.

President Obama, in an interview with CNN hours before Boehner released the document, said, ???I actually think that we have a good chance of getting immigration reform.???

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who co-wrote the Senate immigration plan, said: ???While these standards are certainly not everything we would agree with, they leave a real possibility that Democrats and Republicans .???.???. can in some way come together and pass immigration reform. It is a long, hard road but the door is open.???

The debate is likely to last months and is fraught with peril for both sides as they fight over the specifics of how many illegal immigrants would be able to attain legal status and citizenship.

Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer are happy?  Great!  That’ll bring the Republican base to the polls in droves come November!

It would be nice if the Democrats at least offered GOP leaders some thanks for saving them from the awful drubbing their ObamaCare disaster and general economic incompetence were going to inflict upon them, by launching a bitter months-long debate about an issue the American people regard as nearly irrelevant.  But of course, such thanks cannot be given in public, because unlike the Republican leadership, Democrats are serious about winning elections.  You understand, don’t you, fellas?  They’ll buy you a quiet drink after the election is over.

In releasing the principles, Boehner, according to a source in the room, told his colleagues: ???These standards are as far as we are willing to go. Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that for her caucus, it is a special path to citizenship or nothing. If Democrats insist on that, then we are not going to get anywhere this year.???

Is it even remotely possible that Speaker Boehner actually believes that?  If worst comes to worst for Pelosi and her chums, they’ll pocket whatever Republicans give them today… and denounce them racists for refusing to hand over that “special path to citizenship” immediately.  What in God’s name does Boehner think a two-tiered system of American citizenship is going to be portrayed as, when the midterm election campaign heats up?  If our government doesn’t have the resources to administer our current citizenship laws, how are they going to handle enforcing an even more complicated system?

The Senate plan, backed by the White House and Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House minority leader, would guarantee that immigrants would be able to gain permanent legal status, known as a green card, in 10 years and citizenship three years later, provided they met certain requirements.

The House GOP document, like the Senate plan, included calls for increased border security, new workplace hiring verification rules, and changes to the current visa programs for foreign workers and families. On the key question of what to do with those who entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas, the leadership said young people who came as children, a group known as ???Dreamers,??? would be afforded legal status and, potentially, citizenship.

But for the rest of that population, estimated to number about 10 million, the document states : ???There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation???s immigration laws ??? that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law.???

Rather, the GOP leadership proposed that immigrants would be allowed to live and work in the country if they met a series of provisions, including paying taxes, admitting that they broke the law and learning English. The principles also emphasized thatimmigrants could not attain legal status until border security benchmarks were reached.

We’re right back to the “Gang of Eight” Senate travesty.  Show of hands: who really thinks the Republicans are going to get away with deporting the people who don’t learn English?  Who’s going to calculate and collect those taxes?

What the heck does “admitting that they broke the law” entail, and who administers that?  We’re already getting stern lectures not to use the word “illegal” or “alien” when referring to the Undocumented Community.  Are we supposed to think their activists are going to be cool with some kind of administrative ceremony in which they formally declare they are indeed illegal?  What about all the other laws they’ve broken, including many cases of using of fraudulent documents and identity theft?  Signing a waiver that admits to the self-evident crime of border violation, while serving as a magic clean slate for every other offense, is hardly a triumph for the rule of law.  Is the Republican leadership really having this much trouble imagining how they’ll be pummeled into the dirt for insisting on something like this?  Maybe we should send a team of conservative pundits to Congress to role-play it for them.

No less than Senate immigration reform champion Marco Rubio of Florida expressed the skepticism so many conservatives have shown to the notion of trusting the Obama Administration to meet border security targets, as related by The Hill:

Rubio said that the ???fundamental??? problem to passing immigration reform right now is skepticism on the right that the administration would enforce beefed up border security measures.

He said that Obama administration handling of the Internal Revenue Service scandal involving scrutiny of Tea Party groups and revelations about widespread National Security Administration spying have drummed up this skepticism.

???I don???t know if it can happen under this administration given its lack of willingness to enforce the law. It???s a real impediment,??? he said. ???I think that is the fundamental challenge right now ??? how do we gain people???s confidence that the enforcement will happen.???

Give Senator Rubio credit for hearing, and accurately repeating, one of the chief arguments leveled against his Gang of Eight reform proposal.  Why does anyone think the President who rewrote his own “signature legislative achievement” on the fly would feel bound to meet border security targets he finds distasteful, imposed at the insistence of Republicans he hates, and doesn’t even really see as legitimate parts of the American government?  But if Rubio accepts this criticism, what’s he planning to do about it?  How are we supposed to make a deal when we know the other side won’t honestly keep its side of the bargain, and will not long be satisfied with what we give it?  That’s why the immigration reform debate seems positively surreal at times.

As the Post and other observers have noted, this statement of immigration principles amounts to a “test by Boehner to gauge the appetite of his caucus, and conservative pundits and donors to tackle a big, risky legislative initiative in an election year in which the Republicans believe they have a chance to pick up seats in the House.”

It doesn’t speak well of the GOP leadership that they have to run such “tests” to figure out where their party supporters are at – or, for the cynical, how much they’re willing to put up with.  Hey, how about we focus on some “big, risky legislative initiatives” that would actually address the top concerns of the American people in general, and Republican voters in particular?  Does anyone truly believe there’s a significant portion of the electorate that feels a burning desire to give the Republicans more seats in Congress so they can deliver an amnesty program?  Certainly there are people who want such a program, but how many of them seriously believe voting Republican is the best investment to get one?

The larger our government becomes, the more we slip away from the rule of law.  It’s become a great concern of mine, because clearly the Ruling Class sees its path to power as burdening the people with a gigantic mass of regulations, while holding themselves accountable to few ironclad rules.  Citizen obedience must be balanced by government duty; law must carry weight with both the government and the governed.

One of the reasons this is so important is that it limits the power of the State.  If the government is required to obey its laws, it has good reason not to write too many of them.  ObamaCare is the paramount example of a law that would not exist, if our government was truly lawful; Obama himself would have repealed it long ago, if he couldn’t write special exemptions for important constituencies and unilaterally suspend politically damaging mandates.  Immigration is another such example: is it a “law,” or not?  If it is, then the State is obligated to enforce it efficiently, which means taking money away from programs the Ruling Class adores, and using it to carry out their sworn duties.

But they only treat it as a kinda-sorta law; they won’t delay any other parts of their agenda to enforce it.  For years, elements of the Ruling Class have deliberately left the border open, far beyond the requirements sanctioned by the American people and their elected representatives.  In fact, the Ruling Class denies our moral standing to control the border at all.  But they can’t come right out and say it, so an elaborate charade continues, in which the public is told it must negotiate to retain some small fraction of the rule of law.