Archive for the ‘illegal immigration’ Category
Most of you who know me probably know that I’ve spent a lot of time in the conservative movement. Growing up watching American television and going to Bangor schools left me with a general wash of liberal assumptions; once I learned to consider these dispassionately, I found that the consistent conservative principles I read about and heard on the radio made a lot more sense. And so by my freshman year of high school I was strong conservative, in the sense of the modern American movement that will always be exemplified in my mind by Rush Limbaugh. Now I read the more diverse and intellectual National Review, founded by conservative icon William F. Buckley; it is the magazine that converted conservativism’s most effective political champion, Ronald Reagan. This last year I served as vice-chairman of the College Republicans at the University of Tulsa.
I’ve become much less vocal and less sure of my political views in college; I no longer accept conservative positions wholesale. But I still agree with many of them, and even when I disagree I can at least understand why rational people could be on the other side.
Until now, that is. Those who care about politics at all should know that there is currently a comprehensive immigration reform bill before the senate, one that will simultaneously deal with border enforcement, immigration laws, and the status of the 12-20 million people here illegally. It is a compromise bill, one that no one really likes; it is being supported in the senate by Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, John Kyl, and John McCain, and in the White House by George Bush himself. It is being opposed on the left, I hear, for being to hard on illegals and for changing immigration policies to favor education over family reunification. And it is opposed on the right by the entire hard-core conservative movement for giving “amnesty” to illegals and for failing to protect the border. George Bush, it seems, was unhappy with his 30% approval ratings and decided to alienate the only constituency that has consistently supported him for the last 7 years.
Now to the real point of the post: why do conservatives oppose amnesty for illegal aliens? We can come up with some dark theories, such as:
1) people scared of getting deported are willing to work for lower wages
2) once illegals become citizens, they will all vote for democrats
3) conservatives are are just racist and don’t want so many mexicans in their country
President Bush himself has implied that he thinks the third. I think its a bad idea to impugn people’s motives like this; never to attribute to malice what can be explained by ignorance. Furthermore, I think I can say from personal experience that these are not real concerns to most conservatives.
No, the real reason is about the rule of law. We don’t want to reward people for breaking the law, for insulting those who came here legally and those who are in long lines waiting to do so. We don’t want to show people that if they too come here illegally, they will eventually be pardoned.
There are some other concerns too, like illegals driving down wages and taking public services like schools, hospitals and welfare without paying taxes. I can understand the nativist-wages argument, though I have no sympathy with it; nativism is utterly hypocritical in a country of immigrants like the United States. As for taxes, the easiest way to get them to pay is to declare an amnesty! Make them citizens and they’ll have to pay; we can even make paying back taxes a condition of citizenship. But these arguments don’t really do the work.
It’s really about the rule of law. I really do sympathize with the rule of law argument in theory; but no one wants to say how it can lead to a solution in reality. It is only being used to knock down proposed solutions, never to set them up. We can criticize the newest plan all we want; but if we shoot it down, we will be left with the status quo; 12 million people here illegally, living in the darkness of black markets, but still subject to what John McCain calls a “de facto amnesty”. So what can we do? All most conservatives will say on this point is, “start enforcing the laws.”
Again, a great idea in theory. It would have worked wonderfully after the last amnesty in 1986. But what would it look like in reality? To we send the police through neighborhoods, asking for ID’s, rounding up people and deporting them by the millions? Do we wait for them to come into the open, getting a few thousand a day, making people afraid of going to work, to school, to the hospital? All for the crime of wanting to live and work in our country?
I, for one, couldn’t stomach seeing America turn into that much of a police state for such a trivial reason. If we could restrain ourselves from a mass deportation of Arabs after the crime of 9/11, I think we can avoid a mass deportation of Mexicans for the crime of cleaning our houses and picking our fruit.
I can respect the few people who think through what their enforcement position means and still support it; that’s a legitimate disagreement about how big an issue this is. But I think that most conservatives are simply trying to deny reality on this one.