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Mark Steyn, legal immigrant, on the Senate’s new immigration “compromise”

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HH: It’s Hugh Hewitt on a dark day for the country and the Republican Party, May 17th, 2007, the unveiling of a disastrous immigration “compromise.” It’s really amnesty lite, force fed, tastes terrible. Here to talk about it, Mark Steyn, Columnist to the World. Mark, we don’t have many details, but every one that we have, every one, is bad news. What do you think of this “compromise?”

MS: Yes, I don’t think it is a compromise, because I think essentially, the political class in this country are at odds with the vast majority of voters. This has become one of those things, in the same way that the European issue is in the United Kingdom, where both parties have decided that they know better than the electorate. And the electorate would like secure borders, and the electorate would like controlled, legal immigration, but the political class have decided they know best.

HH: Let me play for you John McCain earlier today, talking about the agreement. Here’s Senator McCain:

JM: This is a first step. We can and must complete this legislation sooner rather than later. We all know that this issue can be caught up in extracurricular politics, unless we move forward as quickly as possible. This is a product of a long, hard trail of negotiation, and I’m sure that there are certain provisions that each of us would not agree with, that this is what the legislative process is all about, this is what bipartisanship is about. When there is a requirement for this nation and its security that transcends party lines. I’m proud to have been a small part of it.

HH: What’s that mean, Mark Steyn?

MS: Well, I think he thinks that this is going to restore his standing with the mainstream media, which has taken a battering since he decided to hang tough on Iraq. That is important in Senator McCain’s peculiar psychology, because the media happen to be his base in political terms. But with the real base, the people whose votes he’s going to be looking for, I think this will the final straw on a very well-burdened camel with the Republican base. It adds one more issue, along with McCain-Feingold and all the other stuff, for the Republican base to say we have had it with McCain.

HH: I also think it’s done in peculiarly…that peculiar style of announcing that everyone else is corrupt but he’s not, criticisms are political but he’s not…

MS: Well, yes. John McCain defines bipartisanship as anything he supports.

HH: Yup.

MS: …which of course is a very egocentric way of looking at it. I mean, we all try to find good news in this thing, and it’s personally good news for me, because my beloved assistant, Melissa, who left me to go and get a job with Senator Sununu, I think is going to be back working for me in January, 2009, because Senator Sununu is not going to be the Senator from New Hampshire anymore. I think will actually, could well cost three or four seats for the Republicans in November, ’08.

HH: I agree with that. I think that if you’re Gordon Smith or Norm Coleman or John Sununu, or any of the other Republicans who are in perilous shape, absolutely destroying the morale of your base, and then lying to them about it…you know, if they got rolled and lost, Mark Steyn, would that be as bad as simply throwing in the towel for window dressing?

MS: Well, I think in a two party system, there ought to be one party that is committed to enforcing the borders, and having legal immigration. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable thing to ask for in an advanced democratic state. The fact of the matter is, this is like all Senate bills, or certainly like an awful lot of Senate bills, and in particular, Senator bills that showboating types like John McCain get their names on, in that it’s a fraud. You simply cannot toss this number of people into an already sclerotic, slow and incompetent legal immigration, and expect it to work. What will happen is the people who follow the law, and I feel strongly about this, because I made the mistake of following the law when I emigrated to the United States, and believe me, I wouldn’t make that mistake again. Those who follow the law will find that the people dealing with their applications are suddenly cut to the minimum, and the political pressure from the likes of the showboaters like McCain will be to process vast numbers of law breakers, who will move ahead in the process, while people sitting and waiting to hear from U.S. consulates around the world, people who have done it legally, will be shunted to the back. It’s disgraceful, and it speaks very poorly for this nation.

HH: Over at Counterterrorismblog, which isn’t highly trafficked, but which is very well respected by people who read serious blogs, there is this line. “The federal immigration bureaucracy that will be tasked with administering any of these reforms will be the Bureau of Citizen and Immigration Services, under the Department of Homeland Security. CIS is already unable to effectively deal with its existing benefit adjudication missions. Virtually all internal and external government reviews of CIS performance have established significant problem areas, including a lack of resources and management performance.” I think that’s echoing, Mark, what you were just saying.

MS: Yes, and can I give you an example of this?

HH: Sure.

MS: If you go to the Vermont processing center, for example, of the Citizenship and Immigration Services, they don’t have enough room in their building. So people take the documents with them home at night. And when you go to that building, you’ll see basically supermarket shopping carts that they load up these documents they have at their homes, take them out of the trunk of the car, and put them in these shopping carts, and they’re all sitting like around the parking lot, waiting to be taken in, then taken back home again. It’s incredibly insecure. And it means that there can be no legitimate scrutiny of the background of most of the applicants. And we don’t have to look far to see the results of this. These, three of these guys who were arrested in New Jersey just a week ago, were illegal immigrants. Four of the guys who flew the plane into the Pentagon on September 11th got their documentation through the illegal immigrant network. If people, if that does not alert people to the seriousness of this issue, this is a war issue. And if John McCain is running as a war leader, he ought to understand it in those terms.

HH: Now do you see any hope of a spontaneous outburst? They live in a bubble, and none of them will come on and talk to me today, not one Republican Senator will come on and talk to me today, which is always an indication of an opinion tsunami having hit them, and they’re beginning to realize uh-oh, like Sylvester the Cat, that maybe he’s got a bad plan. Do you think this can be turned around?

MS: I think it’s very difficult to turn it around, in part because of the dishonesty in the way the issue is framed. I hate it whenever people…you hear about these like protest marches of immigrants, and what of course that means is not immigrants. It means illegal immigrants. And speaking as a legal immigrant, I kind of get insulted when I’m lumped in the same category with people who are here breaking the law, and who project to the American people the idea that an immigrant is someone who breaks the law, and then complains because he’s not getting backdated social security benefits, and his method of complaining is to stand in the street and waive Mexican flags. If that is what an immigrant is in the United States of 2007, then the United States has serious, profound structural problems. But the fact of the matter is that these supine Senators don’t really want to go near this issue, because they think it gets mixed up with racism, and not liking Hispanics, and all kinds of things that supine, craven politicians don’t want to get mixed up with.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, they’ve cut the fence in half, and who knows if that half is even going to get built. Why are they so oblivious to the one aspect of this bill which could have allowed a lot of less savory aspects go down easy, which is the outward manifestation of an inward resolve to control the border?

MS: Well, yes, I think you could make the case that if you just said look, we’re going to have an enforced border from now on, and the price for that is that it’s the one free shave thing, that everybody who’s here now, you get in, you’re fine, you’re okay, but from now on, we’ve got a real fence, It’s interesting to me that in fact, there is, it’s really not about the millions of illegal immigrants. It’s about the lack of will to maintain the borders, which will be ongoing after this bill passes. In other words, these people simply have decided that American cannot enforce its borders, for whatever reason. And as Ronald Reagan said many years ago, if you don’t have borders, you don’t have a nation.

HH: Can you imagine how many people are going to be trying to get up here now? I mean, in the next 60 days?

MS: Yes, exactly, and I think the other thing is that we ought to have an honest debate about what kind of immigrants benefit a society. I mean, for example, for the first time in history in recent years, the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand embassies in the Netherlands have lines of Dutch people wanting to get out of that country, and to emigrate. Now some of those people would like to come to the United States, and would make great contributions to the United States. But it’s all but impossible for skilled people legally to emigrate to the United States on a discretionary basis, because the entire energy of the immigration system here is devoted to processing low-skilled workers from one very narrow section of the world. Everybody in the world wants to come to America. Why distort the immigration process to benefit just one tiny and not necessarily beneficial particular group?

HH: 30 seconds, Mark Steyn. Could this be the corn laws for the Republicans?

MS: Yes, I think it is. I think eventually, when you have a situation where a fake bipartisanship imposes itself on society, and it’s against the political base of a party, then immediately, you’re going to depress turnout. I don’t think this is going to do anything for any of the Republican candidates’ long term prospects. But in the long term, people will give serious thought as to whether this party is any longer an efficient vehicle for their political beliefs.

HH: Mark Steyn, always a pleasure,

End of interview.


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