Give me your tired, your poor . . . but legally, please!
I'm impressed, as I listen to conservative talk radio, by the depth of anger expressed by both callers and hosts (for example, Laura Ingraham) about the Bush approach to illegal immigration. This is an issue we must get right without splitting the Republican Party and its base of support. Our overriding goal should be to forge a Republican consensus on what to do. The blogosphere can help achieve that.
That won't be easy. As my blogfather Hugh Hewitt notes:
There's a small, hard-core nativist, anti-even-legal-immigrant group that seeks to hijack every conversation and comment thread about border security, and you can usually identify its members pretty quickly. But the venom among this small, off-putting group should not disguise the fact there is widespread, across-the-political-spectrum worry that there isn't enough effort being put into border security. And that concern could become Hillary's path to the right in 2008, though it is hard to see how, if the issue is border security, the answer could ever be a Democrat in the White House. (Emphasis added.)You can see some evidence of that nativist fringe in action on the comments to my posts below on immigration, here and here. You'll also see the fierce nature of the debate among other reasonable people who disagree.
Glenn Reynolds (the InstaPundit) adds a little more in an MSNBC column here (hat tip to Hugh). Take a look also at the other links Hugh has compiled.
I support the Bush plan, but we can't forget that plan involves both carrots and sticks. As Hugh notes, the porous nature of the borders continues, and leaves many of us worrying about whether there is enough "stick" being used right now.
I'll say again that the key principles at stake are:
- The rule of law
- National security
- National cohesion
- Preservation of traditional values
This debate is culturally and racially charged. We must admit that. As I've stated before, I recognize that my views on these matters are colored by my experience, but I think I have some credibility. I'm a solid Republican conservative whose first ancestors came to America in the 1670's with William Penn. I'm also a 25-year Los Angeles resident who also spent several years of my young adulthood living in Central America. I speak Spanish fluently and now work regularly in volunteer and professional affairs with the Hispanic community. I'm pretty comfortable with that community and its culture. I love Hispanic food, the music, and the sound of the language.
I understand how others who haven't got that perspective think only of illegal immigrants (and they are illegal, not "undocumented," for heaven's sake) as gang members, criminals, or barely-literate manual laborers. In part, they are those things; but that's a narrow perspective. At least in my experience, in much larger part they are folks looking for a decent chance to feed themselves and their families. They're hard workers and come from the Judeo-Christian tradition. They'd make great Republicans. There are just too darn many of them here all at once!
Even so, we can't allow them come here at the expense of the rule of law, or of our national security in these perilous times of jihad, or of our national culture and language. All those concerns are real, and need a sober, vigorous, serious national debate. President Bush is trying to lead that debate. His plan addresses every one of those concerns in a manner that balances a tough approach to policing the border with humanely allowing those who want to earn their way to permanent resident status (and later citizenship) to do so, without rewarding their illegal entry. He does not deserve the bashing he has received from the Tom Tancredos and Laura Ingrahams of the right. (I love Laura Ingraham and what she's doing on every other issue, by the way.)
The problem needs a serious solution, not angry and unrealistic demands to throw millions of people out of the country, or for Mexico to improve its economy overnight. Maybe the Bush outline is not perfect, but it is a serious attempt at a solution. Let's debate it. Nativists need not apply!