As a solid Republican conservative, I find myself in a position that is unusual for me: I think many of my fellow Republicans are stubbornly committed to a policy that is essentially a pipe dream.
The issue is what to do about the 11 million illegal immigrants here in the United States. The pipe dream is that somehow, those 11 million people can be forced to leave the USA. Many intelligent, thoughtful conservatives seem to buy into this idea; even Scott Johnson at Power Line seems to accept it.
Tamar Jacoby, one of the most thoughtful writers on illegal immigration, frames the issue in the August 15 issue of the Weekly Standard:
As [Senator John] Cornyn described the challenge recently . . . "We have to find some way to transition this population into legal status." Everyone who's serious about fixing the status quo agrees: We cannot build a new, lawful immigration system on top of an illegal foundation, cannot deliver control and legality unless we eliminate our vast underground economy. For our own sake--for reasons of national security and the rule of law--we must come to terms with this shadow world. But we cannot realistically compel 11 million people to leave the country: American business depends on them, and the American public is not going to stomach their forcible deportation. Besides, after years--sometimes decades--in the United States, many of these workers have put down roots, buying homes and businesses, giving birth to children who are citizens. As even Cornyn recognizes (in his speeches, if not in his bill), punitive demands that they go home will only drive them further underground.
There is nothing like a consensus yet on how to handle this conundrum: One man's answer is still another man's amnesty. But sooner or later we all will have to face the fact that most of the 11 million are here to stay, and it is in our interest as much as theirs for us to find a way for them to do so legally. There is simply no practical alternative. The only real question before us is how to structure the transition.Strong words, but so far I have not heard a serious response. For example, Laura Ingraham, of whom I am a great fan and whose show I love, consistently insists on the blinkered approach: Send them home and seal the borders. Many others seem to agree. Scott at Power Line suggests that Edward Erler is the voice of the opposition to Jacoby's view, but the Washington Times piece Scott refers to seems to be simply about the impending dilution of American culture by uncontrolled immigration-- again, stating the problem well, but not offering a solution. Erler does the same thing here and here. Not a proposed solution in sight.
Tamar Jacoby suggests that there is hope for some convergence of opposing approaches- the McCain-Kennedy bill and the Cornyn-Kyl bill in the Senate. McCain-Kennedy, not surprisingly, takes a questionable approach, about which I have commented here. Cornyn-Kyl is much more plausible. Jacoby suggests that out of the two bills a compromise will arise, and we will at last have a workable solution to the problem.
What worries me is that there are so many Republicans who insist on "deport them and seal the borders." It seems to me that if Republicans are going to be a successful majority party, we have to have serious approaches to the major issues of our time. Neither Laura Ingraham's nor Edward Erler's approaches can be taken seriously; yet serious thinkers like Power Line's authors do seem to think those approaches embody some semblance of a solution to the problem.
President Bush has proposed an outline for such a serious approach, and it has produced a great deal of screaming and yelling about the "rule of law." I have yet to see, however, a serious alternative proposed by the vociferous critics of the President's approach.
If you're interested, I've blogged away at this subject for some time, and a list of many of my more, well, provocative posts is here.
UPDATE: Commenter Bradley Hale says:
That is so September 10, 2001. We have to seal the borders to keep the terrorists out. That way we can fight the terrorists over somewhere else rather than here. You are either with us or against us hedgehog.Bradley, I'm strongly in favor of enforcing the borders. So is Tamar Jacoby. If you read some of my earlier posts, you'll see that. Take a look at this one, entitled "Illegal Immigration: Why It Should Keep President Bush Awake at Night." Controlling the borders is the essence of good immigration policy, and the terrorist threat makes that an urgent matter. The question I'm addressing is, What do we do about the illegals already here? That's the one for which too many conservatives seem to have no answer.