The GOP had a collision with immigration policy and law in 2006, and though it has been more than five years since that meltdown, the party regulars ought to remember the consensus that emerged from it:
1. Border security first, and that means a fence of at least 700 miles and perhaps as many as 1000 miles of the 1969 mile U.S. Mexican border. The public –rightly– believes that double fencing with access roads allowing for rapid travel the length of the border create the conditions for much more effective control of the border.
The fence is the “outward expression of an inner conviction” to control immigration. It is hugely important, and the failure to get it built year after year undermines confidence in both parties as both parties promise border security.
2. Robust legal immigration, especially among the highly educated with skills sets that will help grow the country.
3. Regularization of the illegal aliens in the United States to a legal status short of citizenship. The specifics of how long and the various steps are not really of great concern unless the path leads to citizenship, in which case the debate is heated because of a fundamental divide on the issue of whether someone who entered the country illegally ought ever to be allowed to vote. Subsidiary questions on who must leave because of bad behavior are actually not complicated.
4. The treatment of illegal aliens while they are still not regularized: This is Rick Perry’s big problem because “in-state tuition” for illegals living in Texas prefers those individuals over kids from Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico who want to attend college in Texas but have to pay more than kids brought to Texas illegally by their parents. The governor’s response says it is a state issue, and it is, but the national issue is what is he educating them for when their work in the U.S. would be illegal under the laws of the U.S. This is the giant wink in the middle of the Texas approach, a signal that Texas doesn’t intend to enforce the law, a position less rhetorically inflammatory than the “sanctuary cities” policies across the U.S. but not much different in impact.
Politico wants you to believe that this is a huge issue for Mitt Romney and of course it isn’t. The positions above are 90% plus positions in the GOP. They can easily be made to n=be majority positions within the community of Latino voters as well if the specifics of regularization are well constructed, a task for the long months of the general election campaign.
Rick Perry’s “problem” would easily be solved by a quick embrace of the fence, announcing that he has heard voters loud and clear and understands, and a couple of statements that the education being offered foreign students in Texas is designed to assure they have the skill sets that will make them successful in their home countries, and to treat in-state tuition as any other foreign student program, just one where preference depended on the number of years in the state prior to application.
The country, after all, is teeming with foreign students. Even as there is no reason to prefer illegal aliens over U.S. citizens, there is no reason to prefer foreign students traveling her for the first day of college over those who went to high school here.