National Review is my favorite political magazine. I don’t agree with everything in it, but it has such a broad range of opinion — libertarians, social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, First and Second Amendment specialists, etc. — that full agreement would be unlikely.
The February 23rd issue features an article about the immigration issue. It’s by Richard Nadler, and is entitled “At What Cost?”. Mr. Nadler’s contention is that “[c]onservatives should rethink their opposition to ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform”.
This is not a new argument, and there are even certain subsets of conservatism — for example, at the Wall Street Journal — that flirt with an “open borders” philosophy. But it’s rare for National Review to feature such an opinion, and even rarer for me to feel compelled to comment.
Mr. Nadler’s contention is that the Republican Party is doing itself harm by allowing the “border enforcement” faction to set policy:
Conservatives should stop trying to remove 12 million illegal aliens from American soil, either by rounding them up or by inducing them to “self-deport.” In the Southwest, the West, the Northeast, and Florida, attempts to remove illegals have diminished the conservative movement, transforming a governing majority into a structural minority. To continue the effort will damage the conservative cause even more among Hispanics and entrepreneurs.
He then cites the three “permanent interests” that are involved in the issue: border security, employment demands, and immigrants’ rights lobbies. His assertion is that “enforcement first” conservatives emphasize the first of these and neglect the other two, to the electoral disadvantage of the Republican party.
The putative solution is to embrace “comprehensive immigration reform”:
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These interests are permanent, and formidable. “Comprehensive” immigration reform was premised on the assumption that any major legislative attempt to satisfy one of these interests must address all three. In 2006, and again in 2007, the Bush administration championed a version of comprehensive reform; Senate Republicans blocked it. Opponents, primarily conservatives, insisted that immigration reform address border security first or exclusively.
Partisans of cross-border labor and immigrant rights reciprocated in kind, rejecting full-spectrum conservative candidates who opposed comprehensive immigration reform in favor of full-spectrum liberals who supported it. In 2008, advocates of comprehensive immigration reform gained, on net, at least 14 partisans in the House and four in the Senate. All are Democrats.
The author goes on to outline the decline in the Republican share of the Hispanic vote that the party has experienced since 2004. He points out that conservative social values and devout Christian beliefs are embraced by a larger proportion of Hispanic Americans than the is true of the rest of the population.
Thus conservatives need to wake up and realize their mistake:
Conservatives have been obtuse to the depth of Hispanic resistance to the removal of illegals. Roughly 30 million resident Hispanics are American citizens — triple the number of Hispanic illegals. Eleven million Hispanics voted in 2008, a 38 percent increase from 2004. Among adult Hispanic citizens, the Pew Hispanic Center records that 41 percent fear a deportation action against a friend or family member. Roughly one Hispanic in four participated in a demonstration or rally in behalf of immigrants over the past year. [emphasis added]
This is where I part company with Mr. Nadler. One certainly has sympathy with people whose family members have violated the law and risk punishment as a result. But why is the proposed solution to abolish the law?
If a general amnesty for those who broke the law is warranted on principle, let him make the case. But the reason why such a draconian step is necessary is that…
…it would help more Republicans get elected.
Excuse me, sir, but that’s not a good enough reason. What other principles should be abandoned by Republicans in order to gain office? Should they support nationalization of the banks? Partial-birth abortion? A tax increase?
Is opposition to massive immigration of unassimilated foreigners a core conservative principle, or not?
If it’s not, then I’ll turn in my conservative card.
I’m already not a Republican, so I might as well stop being a conservative.
Mr. Nadler goes on to describe the numbers of illegal Hispanic immigrants who are already resident in the United States. Then he says:
The fear and the fury engendered in the broader Hispanic community by conservative efforts to remove illegals has destroyed conservative prospects in the Southwest, weakened them in the West, and wiped them out in New England.
This is not an expression of conservative principle, or a lament about the abandonment of the electorate, or a display of concern for the welfare of the citizens of the United States.
It’s about the declining fortunes of the Republican Party.
Is that really the most important concern of the nation right now?
Richard Nadler is not wrong about any specific fact. “Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform are sitting on a demographic time bomb”, “[e]mployers resisted mandates to revisit the immigration status of employees in whom they had invested time and training”, and “[p]ractical men of business knew that the availability of low-wage labor in the United States prevented the export of higher value-added tasks in an international workplace.”
These things are true. But drawing the conclusion from them that we should embrace “comprehensive immigration reform” is like saying, “Well, the rapist has already broken into the bedroom and has a knife at my throat, so I might as well offer him a beer and we’ll both enjoy it.”
The biggest problem with “comprehensive” reform is the suspension of disbelief that’s required concerning the “enforcement” portion of the deal.
We are being asked, just as we were in 1986, to trade an amnesty for a promise that from now on the immigration laws of our country will be enforced.
Why should we believe it? We got snookered in 1986, and that was under Reagan. Do we really, really believe that we will do better in 2009, when both houses of Congress and the Presidency are overwhelmingly controlled by Democrats? And not just any Democrats, not the Democrats of the 1980s, but a much more radical bunch, many of whom are in thrall both to corrupt business interests and the Multicultural lobby.
Why will things turn out any different this time?
Are we such fools that we will buy the exact same phony and expensive snake oil that we bought last time?
Here is Richard Nadler’s conclusion:
At some point, conservatives must reflect on how many allies, and how many issues, we are willing to sacrifice in a fey and futile attempt to get field workers, busboys, and nannies out of the country. The steady drumbeat of restrictionist defeat invites — no, requires — conservatives to revisit a concept we have glibly reviled: comprehensive immigration reform. The relevant question is no longer whether we want it, but what we want from it: what forms of border security, crime control, and employment verification. Every hour we postpone a border reform that respects the interests of employers and Hispanics, our entire agenda suffers.
I propose to reframe the issue in such a way that both the interests of the Republican Party and the interests of the American people will be served.
The essential problem lies in the concept of the United States as a “propositional nation”. This is all well and good, because that is what we are.
But we overlook the importance of tradition and culture at our peril. The proposition of the United States — that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, etc. — can only be realized within a polity that shares a language, a culture, and a set of basic values. It cannot be imposed successfully on a polyglot mishmash. We wish it could be, but it can’t.
The unpleasant truth is this: A propositional nation cannot exist in a multicultural society.
Mr. Nadler cites some statistics: “Arizona is 30 percent Hispanic; California, 36 percent; Texas, 36 percent; New Mexico, 44 percent.” To him, these are arguments that demonstrate the need for Republicans to cater to the interests of Hispanics.
But I’ll draw a different conclusion, and make my own modest proposal.
There is a synchronicity at work here, because the Tenth Amendment Revival movement among the Several States is just now picking up steam, thanks to the financial crisis and the extension of federal hubris. The States that historically consented to become United are belatedly recalling their God-given sovereignty, as recognized by the United States Constitution.
In order to form a more perfect Union, it’s time to consider the wisdom of forming new associations of States. It is our right to do so.
A collection of States in which the vast majority of citizens speak English as their native language would be most welcome. We already have our own customs and mores, and can adhere to those in a spirit of liberty within a framework of self-governance.
The same would be true in those areas which are now mostly under the sway of native Spanish-speakers. They, too, may have their own form of government — as is their God-given right — in the Aztlan Federation, or whatever they choose to call it. They may tax themselves, design their public programs, and form a government that is as virtuous or corrupt as seems appropriate to them.
The rest of the Nation Formerly Known as the United States of America will be a boon for the Republican Party. The GOP, in this new incarnation, might well be the majority party for decades to come in a prosperous, productive, and peaceful Republic.
But this, alas, is too sensible — and too politically incorrect — to happen. It’s just not possible.
But a man can dream, can’t he?