Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: IMMIGRATION REFORM — Rick Moran @ 10:34 am

There’s a fascinating colloquy on immigration over at The Corner that went on most of the day yesterday which reveals both the opportunity and the danger for Republicans inherent in the debate over immigration reform.

Podhertz’s last post on the issue (from last night) hits the nail on the head:

There are really three immigration debates. There is the cultural debate, there is the economic debate, and there is the security debate. On matters of culture, I believe as everybody else here does that our immigration policy makes no sense if it is not directed at the process of turning non-Americans into Americans through the instruction of English, knowledge of civics and American history, and helping to instill a sense of pride and commitment to the country.

On economic matters, I agree that if immigrants are not of net benefit to the country, it makes no sense for us to allow newcomers to do harm in this way — and here, in my opinion, the case made by restrictionists is by far the weakest. On security matters, an uncontrolled border is clearly unacceptable, and a panoply of measures, including a border fence, is more than called for.

As for dealing with the illegals already here, there’s a sense in which this debate has been radicalized to such an extent that the Right won’t be satisfied with a policy that does not explicitly advocate expulsion — all other policies being dubbed “amnesty” and therefore illegitimate — while the Left refuses to consider any policy other than special-treatment affirmative-action line-jumping legalization. In other words, there is nothing our politicians can do, absolutely nothing, to satisfy the activists — because neither extreme will be reflected in any kind of law or policy that emerges even from a Washington energized to deal with them.

If one were to look at each of those issues separately, Republicans would seem to have it all over Democrats as far as support for their positions by the American people. The problem is, when dealing with immigration reform, the American people assign different weight to each of those issues. Some would like more emphasis on border security while allowing those already here a place at the table. Others (myself included), would like more emphasis placed on assimilation over other issues. Then there those who recognize that illegals are a huge part of our economy and that granting them legal standing in order to continue to contribute to the American economy should be paramount (Bush supporters).

Is there no reconciling the factions? Andrew McCarthy doesn’t think so. And his reasoning is sound; there is no comprehensive fix to our immigration problems:

The problem with this controversy is the seeming sense that it is essential for us to strike some kind of comprehensive solution. Although the proposed solutions are radically different, the sense of urgency for the Big Answer is common among all disputants, whether they are from the trans-nationalist, post-sovereign Left (for whom “rights” for illegals are a natural fit), the portions of the Right kindly toward illegal immigrants due to political/economic calculations, and those on the Right opposed to rights for illegals owing to cultural/economic/rule of law/national security concerns (in whose number I count myself).

I continue to be mystified by this. Government almost always resists hard choices, and thus when it occasionally tries for the Big Answer, it is virtually always the Wrong Answer. See, e.g., intelligence reform, Sarbanes-Oxley, etc., etc. Jonah will hopefully correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve always thought Hayek explained the reasons for this – which lie in the inability of fallible humans to foresee and rationally regulate all downstream consequences of ambitious schemes – as well as anyone.

What then can Bush do to re-unite the party on immigration? More than the unhappiness over spending (that we’ve put up with for 5 years after all), more than taxes, or the war, or any other issue, immigration has the potential to doom Republicans in November. And the consequences down the road could be cataclysmic as J-Pod points out:

If a more sober reckoning of political reality does not intrude here, the Right will hurtle headlong toward schism, division, a third party and all sorts of other “pox on all your houses” actions. The cost of this is what I detail in the direst parts of my book Can She Be Stopped? — the easy transfer of power on Capitol Hill and the White House to the Democrats, and particularly to Hillary Clinton.

It’s doubtful the policies she will follow as president on immigration will please anyone on the Right. It’s certain that the policies she will follow on courts, on social issues, on foreign policy, on taxes, on regulation and on almost everything else you can think of will be deeply displeasing to people on the Right. And then, as a result of the pursuit of an impossible policy of purity on immigration, the country and the world will suffer the consequences.

The potential for self-destruction is terrifying. The potential for grave national harm is worse. Please, you guys, pull back from the edge.

Is there common ground to be found? Yes there is, especially if we take Mr. McCarthy’s sage advice and not seek some kind of “Big Fix” solution. Because ultimately, immigration is not a “problem” as much as it is an expression of a desire on the part of all of us for a national identity.

Illegal immigration dilutes our citizenship in ways that the de-nationalists on the left either deliberately ignore or purposefully downplay. I think a large part of the attraction of the Minutemen is that even if you are uncomfortable with some of what they are doing (like me), they are asserting their rights as citizens in a way that hasn’t been seen in this country in modern times. Not vigilantes but rather an expression of something truly and uniquely American; the recognition that citizenship is precious commodity whether one is born here or not. I like to see the Minutemen as standing up as much for legal immigrants as they are doing for those of us lucky enough to be born here. They see correctly that the illegal immigrant problem is not so much one of security as it is a symptom of a larger malaise affecting the governing class in America; a loss of confidence in average people to govern themselves.

As imperfect as the Minutemen solution may turn out to be - and given the potential for tragedy, I can’t help but fear for their future in that regard - it nevertheless should be a rallying point for illegal immigration foes who see the problem both as a security threat and a threat to the value placed on being a US citizen. For if there is no difference between being an illegal alien and a natural born citizen in America, what stake will either have in forging a national identity that expresses the will of the people? At some point, all the clashing interests that roil our politics must coalesce and some sense of nationhood emerge. And thanks in no small way to the vigorous prosecution of ideas like cultural relativism, multi-culturalism, and other aspects of identity politics, the sense of being an American is getting lost.

Make no mistake. There are those on the left and even some conservative elites who are willing this to happen. The globalization movement is not simply one that advocates free trade zones and ease of communications across national borders. There are many who see globalization as breaking down national borders in order to either increase profits or, as in the case of the George Soros’s of the world, actually facilitate a quasi-one world government. Not ruled from the United Nations, but actually loose knit groups of think tanks, foundations, and “Non-Governmental Organizations” or NGO’s who will not do away with governments as they are today as much as exercise a pernicious influence on issues such as immigration, foreign policy, and perhaps even basic freedoms like freedom of the press and speech (Don’t believe me? Read “The Colombo Declaration“)

The above is not tin foil hat stuff. One need only go to the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) on the Kyoto treaty and realize why any kind of rational debate on global warming is impossible - even among scientists. The hundreds of NGO’s that attend these meetings as well as the support they receive from foundations and think tanks has a deadening effect on debate. These groups have so much invested in the idea of climate change that, like a religion , anyone who disagrees with them is treated as a heretic.

The fact is, there are many people working to destroy the idea of nationhood. And one way to do that is to blur the distinction between citizenship and illegal immigrants. For this reason, we must work much harder to help those who are here to assimilate. By drastically reducing illegal immigration and expanding legal immigration, we will be able to mitigate our security problem while addressing the economic impact caused by a fall off in people who enter the country illegally. Increased legal immigration also helps the assimilation problem as every study ever done shows that legal immigrants are much more likely to work to become citizens than illegals.

I don’t expect the President to propose anything different on Monday night than he’s already offered. He will probably stress enforcement - more guards, more money, blah…blah…blah. We’ve heard it all before. He may drop the “guest worker” provision - for now. And I’m sure we’ll hear some fine, uplifting words about how immigrants are the backbone of the country.

What we won’t hear is anything that will unite Republicans in a way that will stop the bleeding from his base and cause conservatives to come back home. Conservatives want to hear tough talk, not platitudes.

I have a feeling we’re going to be royally disappointed.


  1. [...] FOLLOW-UP X (05/13/06): Rick Moran (Rightwing Nuthouse) concludes in a thoughtful essay that I encourage you to read for its exegesis on the illegal immigration/border security issue: I don’t expect the President to propose anything different on Monday night than he’s already offered. He will probably stress enforcement – more guards, more money, blah…blah…blah. We’ve heard it all before. He may drop the “guest worker” provision – for now. And I’m sure we’ll hear some fine, uplifting words about how immigrants are the backbone of the country. [...]


  2. I also think there is a great danger of a self defeating schism for conservatives. I do believe when November rolls around those of us who are dissatisfied will come out in great numbers, just like we have in past elections, out of fear of what the alternative would bring. Unfortunately, I think that is exactly what the President/Karl and many of the Republicans who are up for re-election are counting on.

    Comment by GW — 5/13/2006 @ 11:24 am

  3. Slightly OT: I also think a wall needs to be built, but I’ve read things here and there that suggest that maybe, just maybe, this whole dance that Bush is doing around the immigration issue may have something to do with the fact that Mexico might end up electing a hardcore Chavez-style socialist real soon now, and that making the wrong move on immigration may encourage the Mexicans to install the socialist as their president.

    At least I’m hoping that explains what Bush is doing. He’s been a poker player in times past, and I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel on him just yet, so while I’m uneasy about the immigrant flood and the Mexican gangs and the overflowing hospitals and the International A.N.S.W.E.R. signs telling us white guys to get the hell off the Mexican continent and move to Europe, I’m still in wait-and-see mode.

    Comment by Aitch748 — 5/13/2006 @ 3:30 pm

  4. Typically well thought out and reasoned argument. Principle is important to me. Our nation is a nation of laws. I will not vote for anyone, nor will I donate and not one single moment of my time will be spent manning the phone banks for the Republicans should they normalize/assimilate/amnesty those who have thumbed their nose at our laws. Not a big loss to the Republicans I am sure, but regardless it is my intention to send a signal by not supporting those who betray my country.

    Comment by Pierre Legrand — 5/13/2006 @ 9:05 pm

  5. Nice discussion Rick, and some food for thought.

    But, given the choice of destruction of America by the GOP leadership or by Hillary and crew, I dont see much difference. Court appointments, taxes, foreigh policy, the fight against terror, the rule of law in America. All will surely fall as fast from GOP leadership on immigration and the demise of America through a socialist one party state as a result of GOP leadership policy as they will fall from Hillary and the DEMS.

    Shoot me (Hillary) and it may take a few seconds to die.

    Stab me (GOP Leadership) and it may take a few minutes to die.

    The result is the same, I die.

    If President bush and the GOP leadership succeed in their immigration/amnesty/citizenship/open borders policies and they will stab America.

    Bush->Immigration Disaster->Hillary->fall of America
    Hillary-> Untold disasters-> fall of America.

    Take your pick, stabbed or shot?

    Comment by lomaalta — 5/14/2006 @ 12:59 am

  6. Hey Rick,

    Just curious, why do you think legal immigration would facilitate assimilation?

    I live in a high immigration area and I tend to think there are too many factors working against assimilation in general. Multi-culturalism is of course one, but also the very high numbers of legal immigrants do as well.

    I have to wonder if we’re not ready for another 1924-1965 style pause in immigration.

    Or perhaps to put it another way, why exactly do we require high numbers of immigrants again?

    I may have missed the memo.

    Comment by Jake Jacobsen — 5/14/2006 @ 1:47 am

  7. Might I suggest for reading the following on the “cost” of illegal immigrants in this country today


    Also they have advanced a seven step plan that could result in effect to having the illegals deport themselves


    Comment by SlimGuy — 5/14/2006 @ 12:22 pm

  8. Another thought occurred to me on the issue of an amnesty “solution”

    Many can document how the mass of illegal aliens are low educated and low skilled and due to their status use false documents or under the table jobs to survive here and send back by many estimates 20 billion dollars a year earned in this country and not reinvested in our economy.

    I submit for consideration, that if they are legalized in such large numbers and thus compete for jobs in the open economy and come out of the shadows all sorts of unforseen impacts will occur.

    If it wouldn’t cause such a backlash, I bet GM for example would love to throw the UAW out the front door to allow the newly authorized to perform such rocket science tasks as mounting tires on your next car.

    Also the argument for illegals doing jobs americans wont do, if you look for example at a farmer who has a crop of lettuce that needs to be harvested by those illegals. Well part of the reason citizens wont do the job is that it does not pay enough to legally support your family. I don’t have the analysis I read on this recently but an article I read somewhere supported the fact that even if farmers had to triple their wages to attract american workers to perform their harvest work the impact on the end cost of lettuce would be negligible, since labor costs are such a small percentage of their overall production costs.

    Comment by SlimGuy — 5/14/2006 @ 12:42 pm

  9. Gee, the illegals only do jobs that we Americans won’t do! Who in hell done them prior to this invasion? I don’t think anyone in this country starved because we never had these people. This problem has been brought on by no other than the week kneed politicians and enablers who constantly give them the dollars to keep them in office to facillitate their constant wanting of MONEY! They are the only ones who benefit and don’t believe that we would otherwize be paying $10.00 for a head of lettuce. Through all politicians out and what would we have? Replacements, just like the illegals.

    Comment by gene — 5/14/2006 @ 3:05 pm

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  11. Rick,

    I agreed with you right up until the point where you advocated an expansion of legal immigration, a point which I don’t think really logically follows from the rest of your argument. With regards to our current immigration system, keep in mind that:

    A) We already admit by far the largest number of immigrants of any nation in the world, over 1 million per year;

    B) Nearly 70 percent of legal immigrants do not come here as skilled, unattached singles easily assimilated into American life, but as people sponsored by their immigrant relatives already in the United States - i.e. the system of so-called chain migration, which ensures an endless supply of legal immigrants, few of them skilled or well-educated;

    C) Given this system, any increase in legal immigration levels will only result in a further deluge of relatives of current immigrants entering, NOT skilled workers or people from countries that haven’t had the chance to send many immigrants.

    In light of all this, I can think of little good that would come from expanding the number of residency permits we issue. If anything, I’d have to agree with an earlier commenter who suggested that a complete pause might be a better idea, then perhaps a resumption some time down the road at much lower levels and with the elimination of the family reunification provision. Fundamentally, we need to start choosing who we want to allow into this country: as it stands, with both legal and illegal immigration, we have completely lost control over that crucial question.

    Comment by Charlie — 5/14/2006 @ 4:27 pm

  12. Thinking again about the immigration problem. Why not sent all of congress to protect our borders and put the minutemen in DC?

    Comment by gene — 5/14/2006 @ 5:02 pm

  13. You can also bring in Mark Steyn’s argument about demographics. He stated the Muslims invading Europe have a higher birth rate than the existing population. I think the same applies here. If we have an estimated 12 million illegals here now take a look at a few generations down the road. They consume a huge amount of social services, paid for by taxpayers.

    Comment by Santay — 5/15/2006 @ 5:43 am

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