August, 2nd 2007

My take on McCain's new take

– Liz Mair

KLo at The Corner has up a press release covering the new immigration bill that John McCain is pushing. The basic point? This bill pursues the enforcement-first strategy. In fact, unless I'm missing something, this is a bill that purely deals with enforcement.

While I am a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, as a general strategy (if not quite in the form that the Senate came up with after tons and tons of amendments to the recent bill), I'm glad to see McCain (and Kyl, and Sessions, and Graham, and Cornyn) take this approach and here's why.

This bill does a great deal to step up security on the border and deal with the issue of deporting law-breaking illegals (by which I mean illegal immigrants who come here and then break laws-- I don't use Pat Buchanan definitions, as a general rule). For example, if the press release is to be believed anyway, the bill "requires hiring of 14,000 new Border Patrol Agents to secure the borders," "mandates construction of 700 miles of fence, 300 miles of vehicle barriers, 105 ground-based radars, and four unmanned aerial vehicles. Requires 45,000 detention beds," "contains a “Catch and Return” provision requiring DHS to detain illegal border crossers," "makes gang members inadmissible and deportable," and "mandates an electronic employment verification system to end hiring of unlawful aliens"-- among other things. As a side note, a large part of why I believe the bill does all of this, and more, and is going to be a tough secure and enforce type bill, is because Jeff Sessions' name on it.

Now, I don't agree with Jeff Sessions very often. And actually I've never been thoroughly convinced that securing the border is a 100% feasible solution (but hey, we'll set that aside for the moment). And that's exactly the point. There are tons of people in this country, who agree with Jeff Sessions 100% on the issue-- and, since I'm assuming that Jeff Sessions isn't actually anti-immigration (he says as much), as I suspect a lot of the people opposed to comprehensive immigration reform are when you get down to brass tacks, there are tons of people in this country who are probably even to the right of Jeff Sessions on this issue (or, more accurately, they're more populist than him on this issue).

Thus far, a lot of people who fall into the hardline Tancredo crowd, the Pat Buchanan supporting crowd, the "we're in the middle of a cultural invasion that's going to destroy America" crowd, the "Mexicans are socialists" crowd, and the "Catholics are a danger" crowd (yes, they do exist), have been able to get away with expressing their anger at those of us who like the idea of comprehensive immigration reform by caging their anti-immigration arguments in terms of "we need to secure the borders first and deport gang members immediately-- and you're a squish because you think we should prioritize legalizing people and that."

Guess what, folks? If this bill moves, it's going to shake out those who are really anti-immigration (or anti-Hispanic immigration) from those who actually just did think that securing the border needed to be done first, and separately, and maybe don't like the idea of a several-year-long path to citizenship getting tied up with the primary objective.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not thoroughly convinced that a lock-the-border-down approach is going to work as well in getting illegal immigration under control as would a bill that simultaneously does things like make it easier for migrant workers to get visas to legally come into this country-- which means more workers we need coming here, making money, sending it home, and hopefully-- though this is subject to the Mexican and other governments instituting quite a few reforms to work fully-- enriching Mexico and other Latin American countries get more prosperous. Which then diminishes the appeal of the US as a new home for prospective future millions.

However, even if this approach doesn't work 100%, if it's pursued with vigorous effort, it will at least enable us to dispense with some of the rhetoric that often sounds sensible, but in enough cases conceals real protectionist, anti-immigration sentiment-- which I believe to be somewhat out-of-kilter with American values.


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