My, my, this is getting better and better. Charles Krauthammer is one of the brightest stars in the firmament of conservative punditry. His only advice to the Republicans about how to change in response to the 2012 election is on immigration. And he goes further than I recall a mainstream conservative pundit going before. From “The way forward”:
They lose and immediately the chorus begins. Republicans must change or die. A rump party of white America, it must adapt to evolving demographics or forever be the minority.
The only part of this that is even partially true regards Hispanics. They should be a natural Republican constituency: striving immigrant community, religious, Catholic, family-oriented and socially conservative (on abortion, for example).
The principal reason they go Democratic is the issue of illegal immigrants. In securing the Republican nomination, Mitt Romneymade the strategic error of (unnecessarily) going to the right of Rick Perry. Romney could never successfully tack back.
For the party in general, however, the problem is hardly structural. It requires but a single policy change: Border fence plus amnesty. Yes, amnesty. Use the word. Shock and awe — full legal normalization (just short of citizenship) in return for full border enforcement.
I’ve always been of the “enforcement first” school, with the subsequent promise of legalization. I still think it’s the better policy. But many Hispanics fear that there will be nothing beyond enforcement. So, promise amnesty right up front. Secure the border with guaranteed legalization to follow on the day the four border-state governors affirm that illegal immigration has slowed to a trickle.
Imagine Marco Rubio advancing such a policy on the road to 2016. It would transform the landscape. He’d win the Hispanic vote. Yes, win it. A problem fixable with a single policy initiative is not structural. It is solvable.
Hallelujah! Or to use a word with similar connotations of glorious praise and relief: Amnesty! Krauthammer goes on to argue that Republicans should not moderate their views on other issues or become more liberal generally. Music to my ears. I hadn’t expected to agree with a Charles Krauthammer column so much. I hadn’t expected to vote Republican again for decades. “Shock and awe,” indeed.
For the record, I don’t support a border fence, and I don’t think it will “work,” in the sense of stopping illegal immigration. But as I wrote a few years ago:
Last May, Peggy Noonan wrote, in a call for tighter borders, that “no one believes in the wisdom of government, but they do believe it has a certain brute power.” Of all the unwise, brutal measures advocated by immigration restrictionists, a border fence is the only one that is not an existential threat to our heritage of freedom. Tamper-proof biometric ID cards are right out of a futuristic dystopian novel. And while most Americans prefer to go after illegal immigrants’ employers, thanks to the laws of supply and demand, the effect of this policy would be to drive immigrant workers a bit further into the legal underground, thus lowering their wages, boosting the pay-offs for employers willing to accept the increased risk of hiring them, and inducing a creeping criminalization of entrepreneurship in America. And I am at a loss to identify the morally relevant differences between mass deportation (which is sometimes whispered about) and things that usually happen in places like Yugoslavia and Sudan. A border fence is the Berlin Wall, but it’s not a police state, or the gulag, or ethnic cleansing.
Though illegal immigrants, including visa over-stayers, come from all over the world, most of them are from Mexico, having crossed the US-Mexico frontier, which is arguably the only place on earth where the First World shares a long land border with the Third World. The “problem” — which is really an advantage — of mass immigration from Mexico, could not happen in an island country like Britain. Britain can therefore be a free country, while at the same time having much less illegal immigration than the US does. Building a border fence is an attempt to make US geography more like Britain’s.
This move is unfortunate because to date, the accidents of geography have been a far wiser and more human legislator than Congress has. Mexican migration has helped to keep down US inflation, and contributed to the strong housing market of the past few years, while creating a stream of remittances, boosting the Mexican economy. It has also led to improved relations between the US and Mexico.
Hmm, I might have overreached a bit. But my main point was the sentence in boldface: a border fence is by far the least worst of all the enforcement measures that have been proposed. Border fence for amnesty would be a great deal. It’s interesting, too, that Krauthammer thinks Republicans could win the Hispanic vote– “Yes, win it”– by backing amnesty, though he hedges his bets by adding “just short of citizenship” to his amnesty proposal. I guess I have to approve of that. My personal sympathies might lie with amnesty plus a path to full citizenship, but Krauthammer’s proposal could ease the way for future keyhole solutions. It would be a big improvement over the status quo, and make me proud to be American.
UPDATE: Eugene Robinson writes:
Look at Colorado. In 2008, Latinos were 13 percent of the electorate; just over 60 percent voted for Obama. On Tuesday, Latinos made up 14 percent of Colorado voters — and, according to exit polls, three-fourths of them supported the president. Think this might have something to do with Romney’s “self-deportation” immigration policy? I do.
Nationwide, roughly three of every 10 voters Tuesday were minorities. African-Americans chose Obama by 93 percent, Latinos by 71 percent, and Asian-Americans, the nation’s fastest-growing minority, by 73 percent.
It seems to be nearly unanimous.
UPDATE II: “Hannity’s immigration evolution draws praise from conservative Latino groups”:
Sean Hannity’s announcement that he has “evolved” on immigration is drawing praise from a conservative Latino organization.
Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, on Friday applauded Hannity for telling his radio listeners he now supports a pathway to citizenship for those in the United States without criminal records.
“Sean Hannity has taken a bold step and conservatives are behind him. It is time to allow the market — rather than a bureaucratic federal government — to determine our immigration policy,” Aguilar said, according to a press release.
“The tidal wave of support for real reform is growing,” Aguilar said.
“There is a growing momentum within the conservative movement to embrace a market-based immigration plan that is in line with Ronald Reagan, who said it best: ‘No regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters,’” Aguilar noted.
In the wake of the GOP’s failure to attract the Latino vote in the 2012 election, Hannity on Thursday said the United States needs to “get rid of the immigration issue altogether.”
“I think you control the border first,” he said. “You create a pathway for those people that are here — you don’t say you’ve got to go home. And that is a position that I’ve evolved on. Because, you know what, it’s got to be resolved.”
He didn’t say a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers only. Excellent.