If there’s one positive
element to President Bush’s recent proposals for (illegal) immigration reform,
it has demonstrated that Republicans, unlike most Democrats today, still
collectively refuse to toe designated party lines. In other words, it looks
like we still have one party of independent thinkers remaining.
from Senators Joe Lieberman, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Bob Kerrey, one
was hard-pressed to find a Democrat willing to denounce Bill Clinton for
his affair with Monica Lewinsky. In contrast, it’s difficult to find much
collective agreement among conservatives or within the Republican Party following
Bush’s announcement January 7th.
for this is probably because the problem of illegal immigration is a mess.
It has grown so far out of control that it isn’t unreasonable that after
years of inviting cheap illegal laborers, no one really knows where to begin
reining it in.
plan would allow undocumented workers, who represent an unknown percentage
of at least 8 million illegal aliens, to work legally in the U.S. The president
said, "One of the primary reasons America became a great power in the 20th
century is because we welcomed the talent and the character and the patriotism
of immigrant families."
President Bush has to realize these were primarily legal immigrant families, right?
columnist Jonah Goldberg believes the president is making the best of a nearly
hopeless situation. His argument is that, even if we wanted to, it would
be practically impossible to round up every illegal alien: "Illegal immigration
is similar to issues such as gay marriage or Middle East peace. Such problems
evolve over decades and the 'facts on the ground' defy rational solutions
on drawing boards."
other hand, columnist David Limbaugh, who views the president’s new plan
as a reward for criminals breaking our laws, says Mr. Bush “has stretched
the patience of conservatives too far on this one.”
Goldberg and Limbaugh are both right. But while problems do “evolve over
decades,” there are always causes behind the evolution of ideas.
now conservatives have been willing to stand by and watch liberals, relying
on activist judges to do their legislative dirty work for them, rewrite history
and our Constitution. Senate Democrats refuse to allow votes for Bush’s judicial
appointees, while Republicans do little more than sit around and watch as
the ACLU routinely crucifies the Boy Scouts and a Massachusetts court rules
in favor of gay marriage. Do they even care that in only a few months the
words “under God” will likely be stricken from the Pledge by the Supreme
Bush’s immigration bill may be the best we can hope for at this point, its
very existence is nevertheless proof that Republicans and conservatives continue
to concede principle when they should be acting on it. It may be too little
too late for true immigration reform, but we have cultivated this problem
over the years through our refusal to enforce our laws and mow our own lawns.
(It should be pointed out that these are bipartisan responsibilities, but
we could usually count on Republicans to say, “Enough’s enough.”)
president seeking reelection understands the value of triangulation leading
up to an election year, as do his constituents. Most fiscal conservatives
were justifiably upset with Bush's prescription drug plan last November;
indeed, some congressional Republicans were downright vicious to the handful
of their Republican partners who stood their ground in opposition to this
bill in the hours before its narrow passage. But at the same time, conservatives
realize that this will help Bush fend off attacks from his opponents along
the campaign trail later this year.
some issues plainly mustn't be politicized. Which is why I’m hoping Bush’s
immigration reform plan was born of his intention to deal most practically
with a realistic problem, and isn’t solely a political maneuver.
many critics believe Bush’s proposals are timed to attract the Hispanic vote
in the upcoming election, there’s no guarantee this will automatically confer
upon the president desirable support from this community. He has to know
this. Indeed, there’s probably a good chance this perceived alienation of
his conservative base will outweigh any gains he’ll make within the Hispanic
illegal immigration has been habitually ignored for far too long; Mr. Bush
is merely the most recent president with the capacity to enact meaningful
reform. And as he’s shown in his prosecution of the war, Bush isn’t afraid
to act on his convictions. So we should at least give him credit for raising
a serious issue in need of much debate.
Bush’s proposal for getting illegal immigration under control will finally
set the table for Americans to determine what should be done hereafter with
this mess. In fact, this is what we should expect of our president. Let’s
just hope Mr. Limbaugh’s concern about conservatives’ patience being stretched
too thin isn’t prophetic, and that voters will decide to afford President
Bush four more years to help us figure it out.
Trevor Bothwell is the editor of The Right Report.