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Posted by on Jan 30, 2013 in Featured, Guest Contributor, Law, Politics, Society | 9 comments

Immigration Offers Republicans an Opportunity (Guest Voice)

Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News

Immigration Offers Republicans an Opportunity
by Matt Mackowiak

For too long, the only Republican plan to deal with immigration reform was to tighten border security. This tact was a helpful dodge, not requiring a politician to detail what we would do with the 11-12 million illegal immigrants already here.

But in winning about 30 percent of Hispanic votes in 2012, the Republican Party has been forced to move to the middle with a more sensible, forward looking plan that addresses the many complicated factors involved in immigration reform.

Swift passage, while sought, is not assured. The Senate appears likely to go first, and I suspect, after a full debate, comprehensive reform will garner more than 70 votes. This will push House Republicans to first allow the bill to come to the floor, without the guarantee of a majority of Republicans supporting it and threatening yet another violation of the Hastert Rule.

Once the House takes up immigration reform, the real fight begins.

The central questions facing this legislative effort are two:

1) Will there be enforcement triggers that must first be met before the path to citizenship begins for those already here?

2) Can conservative supporters like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) convince conservative critics that the bill does not equal amnesty?

One the first question, there appears to be a difference of opinion on the enforcement trigger between the White House (opposed) and the bipartisan group of eight Senators who support it. Without an enforcement trigger, the deal will fall apart and it will never pass the House.

The ultimate resolution of the second question will determine the bill’s fate. The most reasonable criticism of the bipartisan plan is that even by requiring those already here illegally to pass a background check, register for a visa (with a requirement that they learn English) and pay back taxes, and then wait for everyone else in line legally to be processed first, the reform would still advantage the lawbreakers. How?

Because anyone here illegally, while not yet a citizen, would have legal status and be allowed to live in America in the intervening period, which could last as long as 15 years. Those waiting in line now are not yet allowed to live in America, thereby reducing the disincentive of coming to American illegally.

I don’t see an easy fix to the central question.

Absolutists say deport everyone here illegally. Conservatives like Charles Krauthammer and Sean Hannity have said that is impossible. It would wreck the economy. It would cost an enormous amount. And could the federal government even carry this out if it wanted to?

If Republicans want to benefit from strengthening border security, reforming our highly skilled immigrant visa program and opening Hispanic voters up to listen to our ideas, then we must be willing to accept the unfortunate reality that we cannot deport 12 million people.

Pejorative terms like amnesty will still be used. Courageous conservatives will need to stand up, be willing to defend the effort, and most importantly, engage to improve the bill, rather than fight it or outright oppose it from the start.

This is something of a close call for conservatives, but the benefits of this approach outweigh the disadvantages of doing nothing and keeping this intractable policy problem as a useful political issue.

© Copyright 2013 Matt Mackowiak, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Matt Mackowiak is a Washington- and Austin-based Republican consultant and president of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC. Matt can be reached at [email protected]

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  • dduck

    From chaos comes opportunity.

  • adelinesdad

    I think the path to citizenship must be tied to border, visa, and employment enforcement. Otherwise, the incentive is only increased to cross illegally and then enter the legal process once here. Or else, if there is a requirement that residency must be established prior to a certain date, then we only begin a new cycle of creating a new shadow class as people continue to enter illegally.

    As it is, even with only some legal status being offered without an enforcement requirement, that is still an incentive to enter illegally which is unfortunate and underscores the need to ramp up enforcement quickly. However, it is better than the alternative of mass deportation or the perpetuation of the shadow class.

    One thing I wish there was more discussion about in connection with these proposals: what are we going to do to hold Mexico accountable and/or help them deal with their neglect for the welfare of their own people?

  • SteveK

    The word used for previous immigrants who with no guarantee of success put everything they owned into a suitcase or cardboard box and came to America was “Moxie”

    But immigrants have always been willing to work harder and for less and therefore they’ve always been feared and despised by the American workers whose jobs they threaten. There was a new pejorative for each wave… Kike, Wop, Dago, Jap, Chink, Mick, etc. But, as they were always loved by American business whose bottom line they improved, they were all eventually accepted as being a productive part of the American way of life.

    The current batch of immigrants will eventually be accepted into the great American Experiment and appreciated for their contributions.

  • roro80

    “the reform would still advantage the lawbreakers.”

    First — by “the lawbreakers” I presume the author means undocumented people who are already here. Any rational or ethical immigration reform will necessarily confer some advantage to “the lawbreakers”. Otherwise we’d just round up all the brown people and send them home. While there is a sizable portion of the populace and leadership who believe this is exactly what we should do, I think most folks believe that would be pretty messed up.

    Second — the real way to fix this is to start with cleaning up and simplifying (meaning: dramatically speeding up) the legal immigration process. I know quite a large number of legal immigrants. You know what they all have in common? Tons of money and education. To get a *vacation visa* to the US, you basically have to have the equivalent of $10,000 in the bank. To get permission to live here, you need more like $200,000. If you are relatively young and your parents have that kind of cash, you’re also ok in either case. If you have that, and the education to get a job, in 8 to 15 years you can be the proud owner of a greencard, and in 2 more years, you can become a citizen. If in at any time in those 8-15 years you happen to lose your job, (as most folks do at some point in 8-15 years), you have 30 days to get on a plane out of the country, or risk never being allowed back in the US. Bummer if you’ve managed to build a life here in the last 10 years! In any case, the process is extremely long, so complicated that retaining a lawyer to manuever the system is indespensible, and necessarily relies on the immigrant having enormous amounts of money. If we want people to go the legal route, we MUST make the legal route at least reasonably close to the amount of trouble/money/time/etc to come illegally.

    We should note that coming to the US illegally is really hard in and of itself! But it’s not impossible. What is impossible is expecting an immigrant family to suddenly come up with the $200K and 15 years required to go through the system as it is.

  • KP

    Steve, great comment. I see it the same.

    My grandparents came over on the boat in the 20s. My mom down from Montreal. My wife and I met a young gal from Mexico twenty years ago. She was twenty two and had nothing. She recieved her citizinship, now manages a Starbucks, hired my daughter during summers home from university, owns a home and has money in the bank. She is a relentless worker.

    I am hoping that if Congress crafts the right piece of legislation that business hiring practices will evlove, border security is enhanced, the black market shrinks, meaning more revenue from workers paying tax, and that the local laws of “sancutary cities” return to standardized efforcement.

    I am encouraged.

  • merkin

    I am trying to be optimistic, but it is hard.

    The Republican stance is a difficult one. It is basically the Tea Party one against foreigners. The traditional mainstream Republican stance was up until the Tea Party one of encouraging immigration as a way to keep wages down. You see the vestiges of this in the annual push by the Republicans to increase the number H1B1 visas and in the George W. Bush and John McCain proposed comprehensive immigration reform of 2004 centered around the idea of a guest worker program.

    It is not unreasonable to say that this is a battle for the Republican party between the xenophobics and the supply side economists who want to suppress wages. It is hard to pick a side based on the quality of their arguments and just basic humanity.

  • dduck

    Obama wants it done his way and has said so. Sorry Senate get in line.

  • SteveK

    Thanks KP, let’s hope we there can be something for all to be encouraged about… While still doing the right thing.

    edit to add: there is no ‘right thing’ in manufacturing (either through ignorance or ulterior motive) fear, hate and / or xenophobia.

  • SteveK

    Let me try again…

    Thanks KP, let’s hope there can be something encouraging for all… While still doing the right thing.

    note: English is both my first and second language. 🙂

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