I had Mickey Kaus and Glenn Reynolds on yesterday’s program to explore the “floor” that anti-amnesty legislators ought to mark as their minimum for accepting comprehensive immigration reform. The audio of that three segment discussion is here –Mickey calls it a “usefully sharp disagreement” and he’s right, though next time I have to include Tamar Jacoby just to remind my friends that the bulk of political power is on the side of amnesty-light– and it telegraphs how difficult it will be for amnesty opponents to halt immigration reform this year because the opponents of immigration reform cannot agree on the essentials that such a bill would have to include. Given that the Democrats control both Houses, and the likelihood that there are at least ten Republican senators who will join the pro-reform 50 Democrats (I am still not counting Senator Johnson in this number), the prospects of a amnesty-light bill are growing every day that the opposition does not organize around a set of principles.
I would think a bill that mandated rapid construction of the 700 miles of double-fencing, significantly hiked fines on employers paying illegals who could not mount an affirmative defense based upon a tamper-proof ID, and the stipulation that citizenship could never be available to anyone who had entered the country illegally and who had either not returned to their country of origin for a legal entry that was separated by a period of at least some months from their exit or had served in the military. I think it might also be possible to insist on a constitutional amendment being sent to the states on the subject of birthright citizenship for the children of illegal aliens.
But Mickey and Glenn –smart guys who understand the art of the possible and are not, like Tom Tancredo, among the Ambrose Burnsides and Joe Hookers of the anti-illegal immigration movement– aren’t buying the idea that a floor exists. Their point is that any regularization, no matter how carefully crafted, will immediately sow the seeds of the next big wave of illegal immigration, just as 1986 has birthed two decades of massive illegal immigration. At a minimum they seemed to say that no regularization of any sort could happen until after the fence and sanctions had been in place for some time and the effects on illegal immigration had been studied. What I can’t persuade them of is that the inflow is a massive problem that has to be dealt with asap –especially because of security reasons– and that a “pox on everything” approach guarantees the amnesty-light bill passing without anything useful in it at all.
Perhaps they would support a bill that saw the fence built and the sanctions in place but which guaranteed an up-or-down, filibuster proof vote on regularization in 2011 or so? I’ll have them back next week to continue the conversation, but the point seems to me to be that unless the anti-amnesty light forces get their act together, they will get rolled. Mickey suspects my concern is all about the GOP, and while I do see the potential for the GOP to split as deeply as the Tories did over the Corn Laws or the Liberals over Irish Home Rule (I wrote about this at length in Painting The Map Red) my primary concern remains security in a time of WMD. The 14 million illegals can easily be absorbed into our culture and economy –most already are in the former– but we can’t simply resign ourselves to “absorbing” a serious attack that begins in the crossing of packages and people over a largely porous southern border.
Glenn has written more on the subject here. Glenn is also promoting a Lou Dobbs (D) for president campaign. A Blue Tancredo would certainly shake up the Dems.