With the war in Iraq politically on the backburner, illegal
immigration is heating up as a campaign issue. The public wants action,
and the candidates are scrambling to react.
Clinton's sure nomination was first questioned when she flubbed an easy
debate question about driver's licenses for illegal aliens.
John McCain's recovery took off when he backed away from his support of
immigration reform that did not first ensure the closure of the border.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani is no longer for "sanctuary cities" that shield
illegal aliens from arrest. Like former Gov. Mike Huckabee, he is now a
born-again opponent of illegal immigration.
Former Gov. Mitt Romney assures us some illegal aliens can be deported within 90 days after he's elected.
Barack Obama may talk of "change," but his relative fuzziness about
illegal immigration can't last forever, and at some point he will have
to offer more specific proposals.
Some time ago, supporters of open borders lost the debate. The majority of Americans want them closed — now.
They ignore the tired slurs like "anti-immigrant," "racist,"
"protectionist" and "nativist." And noisy May Day parades with Mexican
flags and heated rhetoric from the National Council of La Raza ("The
Race") only turn more people off.
It doesn't do any good,
either, for a Mexico City functionary to cry about how mean we are to
want a secure border with Mexico. Most Americans also tuned that out
They know instead that Mexico cares mostly about sending north those
it won't or can't feed and house — so it can skim off from them
billions in remittances once they arrive in the United States.
City, of course, could reform the country's laws and economy whenever
it wants. But it changes only enough to draw in tourists or Americans
looking to buy vacation homes, not to better the lives of millions of
its mestizo poor in the heartland.
The spinmasters may think illegal immigration pits conservative Republicans against liberal Democrats. But it doesn't always.
worry about illegal immigration is just as likely to mean
African-Americans are terrified of racist alien gangs in Los Angeles.
Asian-Americans are frustrated that their relatives with college
degrees wait years to emigrate legally, while thousands without
high-school diplomas to the south simply enter the United States
And many Mexican-Americans are probably tired of
being expected to defend the indefensible of foreign nationals breaking
immigration laws simply because they share an ethnic heritage with
To the extent Democratic candidates ignore
illegal immigration, or demonize those who worry over hundreds of
thousands of new illegal aliens each year, or talk of guest workers and
amnesty before they mention closing the borders, it is a losing issue
that could alienate millions of voters.
can't really claim redneck racists are rushing to the border to clash
with poor campesinos just crossing to better their lives, because many
poor Democrats also resent how illegal labor drives down their own
wages. It is mostly the American poor and middle class who worry about
the sudden influx of thousands who don't speak English and often need
But the Republican candidates have to
watch it, too. If blanket amnesty is a losing issue, so also is mass
deportation — the practicality and morality of which are rarely
considered by those rightly calling for an end to illegal immigration.
Busing every illegal alien back to Mexico right now might resemble the
past messy partition of India and Pakistan, and reopen the issue in a
way that Democrats can legitimately exploit.
What then might an astute candidate advocate?
the border now through fencing, more agents, employer sanctions,
enforcement of the law and verifiable identification. Restore faith in
the melting pot by insisting new legal arrivals learn English and the
customs and protocols of the United States.
Explain to the
Mexican and Central American governments that using the United States
to avoid addressing internal problems — while making easy dollars off
the backs of their own expatriate laborers — is over.
deport aliens who have broken the law, are not working or have just
arrived. Some illegal aliens will not like the new atmosphere of tough
enforcement and will voluntarily go back home. Others may have criminal
records or no history of employment and should leave as well.
many millions of law-abiding, employed illegal aliens of long residence
will wish to stay. We should allow these to remain in the United States
while they apply for citizenship — if they are willing to learn
promptly our language and customs.
Republican candidates must
risk angering their base by ruling out mass deportation. Democrats
should support closing the border tightly and quickly — and not cave in
to open-borders groups.
Making these tough choices now is
what most voters want. The candidates of both parties in the next few
months will either adjust accordingly or lose elections.