So Near, And Yet So Far: That South Carolina GOP Debate and America’s Immigration Disaster

Unfortunately, it may well turn out that January 19th’s South Carolina debate was the last time the issue of patriotic immigration reform might have been put into play in the 2012 cycle’s GOP Primaries. So let’s take stock:

  • Illegal immigration has unquestionably established itself as a powerful negative force—all the contenders are now terrified of seeming soft on it. But they are also fairly clueless about what to do about it, and even how to use it as a political weapon.
  • Cutting legal immigration remains totally absent.

VDARE.com’s opinion: this is an enormous reproach to all of us in the patriotic immigration reform movement—but especially, I must say, to the Beltway part of the movement and its Politically Correct softly-softly lobbying tactics. The professional politicians have taken no notice of them whatever. The only progress that has been made is when inflamed grassroots activists have cornered the politicians on the campaign trail.

It’s all been intensely frustrating. A recent Gallup poll showed immigration the third-highest concern among voters (and the others have immigration dimensions). [ Americans` Immigration Concerns Linger - Gallup, January 17, 2009]A majority of Republicans (and a substantial minority of Democrats) say they want immigration cut. One spark could start a conflagration. It may still be struck. But I increasingly think that America’s post-1965 immigration disaster can no longer be redressed within the current party system.

From CNN Transcripts: Part III: 21:00-21:30, CNN Southern Republican Debate

 

Q: Hi. I would like to ask, on the issue of amnesty of the illegal aliens, would you—how would you secure that the American citizens would get—keep the jobs in line first for them?

[PB: Note that, as has been typical throughout this campaign, this immigration question came up came, not by from rival contender or the Main Stream Media, but from the floor,—Rick Oltman says from “Elaine Flowers, a Tea Party Patriot.” Moreover, however artlessly phrased, the question makes the fundamental connection between immigration and unemployment—although this nexus has been totally absent from Establishment debate.]

Mr. KING: Mr. Speaker, let`s start with you on that. She mentioned the word “amnesty.”

[PB: CNN’s John King promptly dumbs down the question to amnesty, the only aspect of the immigration issue that seems to have finally penetrated the MSM’s thick skull. This allows all the GOP contenders to evade the unemployment aspect.]

You have explained your position in this campaign, and as you know, some conservatives have said: No, Mr. Speaker, you say you can`t deport—maybe it`s 10 (million), 11 (million); some people say it`s high as 20 million—people illegally in this country.

[PB: To King’s credit, he does recognize that the official numbers may be too low. And, of course, that doesn’t count anchor babies.]

You say it`s unrealistic to deport them all, so some would have to be given a path to legal status. And as you know, many conservatives say: No, that`s amnesty, Mr. Speaker.

MR. GINGRICH: Right. What I say—let`s start with—I think you have to first of all control the border. I don`t think you can pass a comprehensive bill,

[PB: a.k.a Amnesty. But why would any Republican—or American—want to pass Amnesty?]

because nobody trusts the government. So first, you control the border. We have a bill that would have it controlled by January 1, 2014. And—and I`m prepared both to waive all federal regulations to get it built and controlled by 2014, and I`m prepared to move up to half the people who work for Homeland Security, about 20—they have 23,000 employees in Washington. I`d be prepared to move half of them to Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, if that`s what it took to control the border. (Applause.)

[PB: I guess this is symbolically satisfying, but it’s irritatingly theatrical. Thousands of clerks are going to be handed pickaxes?]

Second, I—I favor English as the official language of government, and I think that creates a continuity. (Cheers, applause.)

Third, I would actually modernize their legal system of—of visas because the—currently we make it too difficult to come here legally and too easy to come here illegally. (Applause.)

[PB: Actually, it’s easy to come here legally—if you fit into the crazy system, usually through “family reunification.” That’s why the current legal immigration numbers are so high. The danger is that a President Gingrich would simply increase legal immigration above the current legal inflow—exactly as the Bush Amnesty proposals (which he supported) would have done].

Fourth, I would make it much easier to deport people, so if you are a noncitizen who belongs, say, to MS-13, an El Salvadorean gang, you—we should be able to get rid of you in two weeks, not two years, and we should have a much easier deportation. (Applause.)

Fifth, I favor a guest worker program, and I would outsource it to American Express, Visa or MasterCard, because they can run it without fraud and the federal government`s hopeless.

[PB: Most immigration patriots distrust guest worker programs (“there’s nothing so permanent as a temporary worker”) but I’ve always tended to like them because I think they could get the business lobby, shrew-like in its selfish blindness, out of the policy picture. However, guest worker programs must be coupled with reform of the Birthright Citizenship misinterpretation of the 14th amendment. Otherwise, they will simply lead to anchor-baby immigration. But Gingrich does not mention this.]

So you want a system that is accurate and that is anti-fraud, which leads you then to be able to say to private employers, if you hire somebody who`s illegal, we`re going to have an enormous economic sanction, because there will be no excuse once you have a guest worker program that`s legal.

[PB:“Enormous economic sanction”—does this mean Gingrich favors enhanced interior enforcement? E-verify? He doesn’t say.]

Then you get down to the question of people who are already here. I believe—and what I just described—most of them will go home.

[PB: Why? To be fair, Gingrich is compressing a lot here. Of course, it is historically true that determined deportation has resulted in mass exodus, cf. Operation Wetback.]

The one group I singled out—and we—and we do have a lively debate on this up here—there are people who have been here 25 years. They`ve been working, they`ve been paying their bills; they`re married, they have children, they may have grandchildren; they may be in your church.

[PB: Income tax cheats may be members of your church too. Are they to be let off?]

Now, I don`t think we`re going to deport grandmothers and grandfathers who have 25 years of networking and relationships in a community. So I`ve suggested a World War II-style draft board where local citizens would review the applications, you could only apply if you proved that you were financially responsible, you proved you had genuine family ties, and you had an American family sponsor you.

[PB: Utterly unworkable, of course.]

You still wouldn`t get amnesty; you wouldn`t get citizenship. You would get a residency permit.

[PB: Of course, this is amnesty—Gingrich has simply redefined the term to mean becoming a citizen. No doubt his is an ideal outcome for the GOP and its Big Business donors—no Democratic voters combined with cheap labor—but it is a political absurdity.]

In order to apply for citizenship, you would have to go back to your own country and get in line behind everybody else and be processed as a person from that country.

But I think it would—I think this is a doable, solvable, practical solution. And I think trying to deport grandmothers and grandfathers will never pass the Congress and would never be accepted by the American people. (Applause.)

[PB: Gingrich here sets the parameters for the subsequent contenders. Key patriotic immigration reform concepts left unmentioned:

(1) Obama’s Administrative Amnestya new development to which the GOP has, incredibly, not yet responded;

(2) Better visa control, since up to half of all illegal aliens in the U.S. came here as legal visitors and overstayed;

(3) Attrition through enforcement—let’s see how many of those grandparents will really stay;

(4) Strategic deportation—let’s start an Operation Wetback–style stampede for the exits;

(5) An anti-unemployment immigration moratorium—aimed at curtailing legal immigration.]

MR. KING: Governor Romney, is that the doable, practical solution?

MR. ROMNEY: You know, the issue of illegal immigration is relatively straightforward, compared to the tough issues we face—issues like how we`re going to compete with China as it grows a military which is of extraordinary scale and a navy of that scale; how we`re going to deal with radical violent jihadists; Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, making sure they`re solvent. We`ve got real challenges that are tough.

[PB: i.e. Romney doesn’t want to talk about illegal immigration—let alone legal immigration.]

This one is not tough: You build a fence, you have enough Border Patrol agents to secure the fence, and you also have a system of giving to people who come here legally an identification card, and you expect employers and insist that employers check that card before they hire someone.

If they don`t check the card, if they don`t run it through the U.S. database and get an instant response from the government or from Mastercard, Visa, American Express or whomever, then those—those employers are going to get severely sanctioned. If you do that, we solve the problem of illegal immigration.

And with regards to those that have come here illegally now, we`re not going to round them all up and deport them, but we`re also not going to give them a preferential pathway to become permanent residents or citizenships—citizens.

[PB: This, ominously, leaves the door open to a Gingrich-Krieble helot-type solution.]

They need to go back home, apply for citizenship, apply for permanent residency, like everyone else. Coming here illegally should not give you an advantage being able to become a permanent resident of the United States. (Applause.)

[PB: See Gingrich, above.]

MR. KING: Do you have the same view, Senator?

MR. SANTORUM: Well, I come at it from—as being the—the son of an immigrant. And my grandfather came to this country and brought my dad when he was 7 years old. And that`s the story that I—that I love, am familiar with and believe in my—in the heart of hearts that—that immigration is—people who want to come to this country and be Americans is really the continuing, you know, infusion of freedom and—and enthusiasm for our country.

[PB: Blah, blah.]

But when you come here illegally, the first act you take is to break our law, that`s a different story. And I—you know, we have two folks here, both Governor Romney and Speaker Gingrich: Mitt Romney has the position now that people have to go home, but as few as just a few years ago, he said that there could be a pathway to citizenship. He`s repeatedly said that. Now he`s changed his position. I understand that. He`s done that on a couple of occasions.

And—and you have Speaker Gingrich, who—who believes there needs to be a legal pathway. That`s where President Obama`s position is.

I think we need a—again, just like health care, we need a clear contrast, someone who can say, look, we—I have always been for making sure that the law is enforced, and enforced fairly. I`m—I—grieve for people who have been here 25 years and maybe have to be separated from their family if they—if they were picked up and deported.

But my father grieved for his father when he came to this country and lived here five years and other folks who sacrificed, who came here to America, did it the right way according to the law, because America was worth it. And if you want to be an American, the first thing you should do is respect our laws and obey our laws.

And—(cheers, applause)—and the idea that someone, whether it`s—whether it`s either of these two gentlemen, whether the idea that someone who came here and lived here 25 years has only broken one law, if they`ve worked for 25 years they`ve been breaking the law for 25 years. (Applause.) If they`ve been working they have probably stolen someone`s Social Security number and they`ve committed Social Security fraud.

They`ve—this—this is not just a single occurrence. It`s an ongoing issue. And if we treat people like that differently than we do with a mother who out of a desperate situation goes out and—and shoplifts or does something and gets thrown in jail, what are we saying—that we`re going to treat people in this country who do things for their family differently than those who are here illegally? I don`t think so. (Cheers, applause.)

[PB: This is a good statement on illegal immigration by Santorum and reflects real progress by the patriotic immigration reform movement—except for the fact that, like Michelle Bachmann in October, he utterly fails to take the opportunity to call for cuts in legal immigration, although he had dramatically converted and broken new ground by calling for a reduction just a couple of days earlier.]

MR. KING: You mentioned both Governor Romney and the speaker. Take a—take a moment quickly and then I want to bring Congressman Paul into the conversation. He essentially is saying he doesn`t trust you on this.

MR. ROMNEY: Well, you know, I ran for president four years ago. This was the position I described when I ran four years ago. Wrote a book, laid out my position. I actually agreed, I think, with what you just said, which is I believe those people who have come here illegally should not be given a preferential path to become permanent residents or citizens of this country.

You shake your head. I`m—

MR. SANTORUM: That`s not in the book.

MR. ROMNEY: OK—

MR. SANTORUM: I`ll be happy to show you the quotes of what you said—

MR. ROMNEY: OK, good, good, good.

MR. SANTORUM: —that people should have a pathway to citizenship.

MR. ROMNEY: And the path—

MR. SANTORUM: Not—not—not—not citizenship; pathway to be legal in this country. Not citizenship.

[PB: I don’t know exactly what’s in Romney’s boring book, and I doubt he does either.]

MR. ROMNEY: And the pathway that I`ve described is that those individuals who have come here illegally should be able to register in this country, have a temporary period to arrange their affairs, and return home and get at the back of the—at the back of the line like everyone else. And the position I`ve had is that the people who come here illegally should not be given a preferential pathway relative to others but should be able to get in the same line, at the back of the line.

And I agree with the Senator. I`m sorry you don`t acknowledge my agreement, but I agree with you that this is a nation at laws.

At the same time, I think it`s important—I`m glad you mentioned this, because I didn`t in my answer, and that is, we need to underscore the fact that we`re a party of legal immigration. We like legal immigration. (Applause.) We want legal immigration.

And to protect legal immigration, we want to stop illegal immigration.

[PB: Ominously, this suggests that Romney, like Gingrich (and George W. Bush), really intends to increase legal immigration].

And we don`t want to do anything that would suggest to people, come on in here, just wait long enough, whether it`s five years or 10 years, wait long enough and we`ll take you all in on an amnesty basis. I want people to get in line legally.

MR. KING: Congressman Paul, you`re from a border state. If this is a problem—you`ve heard your colleagues talk about making sure employers—companies that hire large numbers of people—making sure they get the message they can`t hire illegals. What about individuals? About a quarter of the illegal immigrants in the country work for individuals. If this is a problem, if I hired an illegal immigrant, say, to clean my home, should I be prosecuted for doing that?

REP. PAUL: I don`t believe you should be, because I think those laws are misdirected. That makes you the policeman, or the businessman the policeman, or the Catholic Church the policeman, if they do anything to help an illegal immigrant. It should be the law enforcers, and that is the border guards and the federal government in charge of immigration. So no, I don`t agree with those laws.

[PB: A sad regression to left-liberaltarian twaddle. How can citizens ignore law-breaking?]

But that doesn`t mean that I`m soft on the issue of illegal immigration. It`s illegal. I can`t imagine anybody standing up here and saying, oh, I`m for illegal immigration. We`re all against illegal immigration.

[PB: Bunk. The American elite has not at all been against illegal immigration, just occasionally against acknowledging it]

But I think what we fail to do is—is look at the incentives, and it has a lot to do with economics. There`s an economic incentive for them to come, for immigrants to come, but there`s also an incentive for some of our people in this country not to take a job that`s a low-paying job. You`re not supposed to say that, but that is true.

But there`s also an economic incentive in the welfare state for immigrants to come in.

In Texas, we suffer from the fact that there are federal mandates that we have to take care of their medical needs and their educational needs, and it bankrupts some of our—our school districts and our hospitals. So it`s those mandates.

[PB: Yeah—as Milton Friedman once told me, you can’t have mass immigration and the welfare state. Of course, that’s true for legal immigration too, which Paul doesn’t mention.]

But we need a more generous immigration policy—it shouldn`t be legal—but we need more resources.

[PB: What? Paul obviously speaking too quickly here. But it sounds like he, too, wants to increase legal immigration.]

But I find that the resources are all overseas. I—when I was in the military, I was on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and that is a no-man`s land. You can`t see the border. At least we can—we can see the river south of Texas; we know where the Rio Grande is. Over there, we can`t see it.

But we`re over there fighting and dying over that border, looking for problems. Why don`t we take those resources and quit pretending we can defend those borders and put them on our borders and take care of our needs here? (Cheers, applause.)

MR. KING: Go ahead, Mr. Speaker.

MR. GINGRICH: Yeah, I—John, I just think if you`re going to raise immigration, I want to make the point that on the very first day that I`m inaugurated, I will issue an executive order to the Justice Department to drop the lawsuits against South Carolina, Alabama and Arizona. (Cheers, applause.) The federal government should enforce the law, not stop states from helping it enforce the law.

[PB: This is the only, indirect, mention of Obama’s Administrative Amnesty—typically made by Gingrich, who is undeniably creative. Pathetic.]

MR. KING: I think we have nodding heads. I assume we have agreement on that.

[PB: Agreement—to do nothing.]