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How Not to Campaign on Immigration By: Robert Stacy McCain
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, October 19, 2006

The insistence on linking enforcement to some sort of status-adjustment for illegals -- which has been the GOP elite line for more than 2 years now -- blows oxygen onto the embers of grassroots conservative resistance.

The problem with Tamar Jacoby's argument in Foreign Affairs is that it fails to acknowledge how 20 years of non-enforcement of immigration law have eroded public trust in the federal government's bona fides on this issue. 

Simply put, many Americans don't believe that either party in Washington really wants to secure the border. And when soi-dissant conservative intellectuals like Jacoby start talking about the need to link enforcement to status adjustment, grassroots conservatives roll their eyes and say, "See? I told you not to trust Republicans."

Three points:

  • The two issues -- border enforcement and the status of current illegals -- must be delinked in Republican policy and rhetoric.
  • "Enforcement first" must become a conservative rallying cry.
  • If and when the GOP can win back trust on the enforcement issue then -- and only then -- will it be safe to examine status adjustment, guest-worker proposals and the like.
First, however, the GOP elite must acknowledge that its long indifference toward border security has been central to the current political crisis over immigration. Only with that admission can the GOP begin restoring trust.
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