Why conservatives should support immigration reform
I am pleased that the conversation on immigration reform started in earnest last week after a bipartisan group of senators unveiled a set of principles that will guide the debate moving forward. Despite Senator Marco Rubio’s interviews with Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, a number of my colleagues in the conservative movement remain skeptical. That is understandable given Congress’s history. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan championed amnesty for over one million unauthorized immigrants in exchange for significant reform — which would have included a thoughtful process moving forward that would restrain, if not completely stop, illegal immigration. The amnesty portion took place, but the reform portion never did. Worse, it became a strong magnet for further unauthorized immigration given our broken system and America’s needs for more workers in areas of need.
A healthy skepticism and a watchdog approach through the conclusion of this legislative process is a good thing. Appropriate enforcement of our immigration laws moving forward and an acceptable solution to the dilemma of our unauthorized immigrants are goals worth fighting for. However, before the skeptics unleash their scorn on those willing to risk significant political capital in order to solve this crisis, it behooves everyone to recognize a few realities:
1. Democrats control the Senate and the White House
2. Currently we already have ip so facto amnesty with the president’s Executive Order preventing the enforcement of our immigration laws
Let me be clear about the choices we face. They are: A continuation of our current unacceptable executive fiat or a bipartisan solution which may be imperfect but at the very least significantly improve the status quo.
Those opposing even the beginning of this journey act as though there are other better, doable choices than those proffered so far. We should demand of those advocating against what is in front of us at this time not just a contrarian discourse, but an explicit alternative that they would propose given the current circumstances. We are all ears for a better fix within the political realities of the moment.
Absurdities abound in the commentary so far. We have always heard from the two opposites of the political spectrum: nativists and zero-growth environmental radicals. The truth is that the far left has poured far more resources to lobby against immigration reform than anyone else, ignoring our shrinking population, the fact that almost 5 percent of our current work force consists of unauthorized immigrants, and the shifting demographics that are taking place regardless of what actions, if any, we take on immigration reform.
Lastly, for those whose emphasis for or against this proposal are the political ramifications, transport yourselves back in history to the time when Congress debated the admission of our 49th and 50th states into the Union. At that time, in order for there to be bipartisan support for Hawaiian and Alaskan statehood, it was essential to admit both states simultaneously since political “experts” deemed that Hawaii would be largely Republican given our history in the Pacific wars and the residence of many military retirees in the islands. Alaska, on the other hand, was deemed to go to the Democrats given the risk takers and adventurers in its midst. Well, those political estimates were totally off the mark.
The truth is that no one can accurately predict the predilections and voting patterns of our future citizens. Instead, we should focus on supporting lasting immigration reform because it is the right thing to do and the status quo is far worse. The future of our national security, economy, and our children depend on it.
Al Cardenas is chairman of the American Conservative Union