The House’s Foolhardy Principles
Republicans shouldn’t act on immigration now — and never act according to these ideas.


Mark Krikorian

Of particular concern are the needs of the agricultural industry, among others. “Temporary”-workers programs for any industry are a bad idea for Americans, but you could drive a truck through “among others.” Every industry wants de facto unlimited access to foreign workers, to hold down wages.

It is imperative that these temporary workers are able to meet the economic needs of the country and do not displace or disadvantage American workers. “Temporary”-worker programs by definition disadvantage American workers. The sober, free-market populism that the GOP needs to espouse to refurbish its brand isn’t going to get far if Republicans screw the very blue-collar workers whose votes they’re trying to get.

One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents. Well, the Constitution does ban bills of attainder, but I don’t think you could describe it as “one of the great founding principles.” In any case, we’re not talking about “corruption of blood” — children suffer for their parents’ mistakes all the time. If you can’t pay your mortgage, your kids don’t get to keep the house. Being sent back to your country of citizenship isn’t a punishment.

Individuals Living Outside the Rule of Law . . . people who are living and working here illegally. So even Republicans can’t bring themselves to say “illegal aliens” or even “illegal immigrants”?

There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws — that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law. What’s unfair to legal immigrants and harmful to the rule of law is letting the illegal aliens stay legally, not whether they have a “special path” to citizenship or not. And “no special path” means that illegals would receive a non-citizenship amnesty, resulting in a large, permanent helot class. And leaving aside the repugnant principle, Democrats will demagogue that until Republicans cave and give them all citizenship anyway.

Amnestied illegals must pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits). These conditions sound good but have mainly been used to lull skeptics. The smallish (and illegal) DREAM Act amnesty has legalized some half-million people, and the crush was so overwhelming for the bureaucracy that it had to resort to “lean and lite” background checks. Illegals are, almost by definition, poor and won’t be able to pay large fines — they’d all be waived. “Back taxes” is totally fake; there’s no way to reconstruct a history of tax obligations. It’s just boob bait to make a measure sound tougher than it is. Proficiency in English and civics is the same: Making illegals take a class might help a little, but there’s no way we’re going to revoke the amnesty given to someone because he fails a test in English and civics. And avoiding public benefits is a farce. A very large share of households headed by illegal aliens can make ends meet only because of welfare they already collect nominally on behalf of their U.S.-born children.

Finally, none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced. The use of “triggers” suggests that amnesty would be written into law but delayed until the benchmarks are met. “Enforcement first,” which is preferable, means not even a prospective amnesty is voted on until satisfactory enforcement systems are up and running. Furthermore, what are the triggers, inputs (like hiring of a certain number of Border Patrol agents) or results (like three consecutive years of shrinkage in the illegal population)? And what does “none of this” refer to? Paul Ryan has suggested that all illegals receive probationary work visas, and thereby be amnestied, before we move forward on enforcement.

The ultimate question: Why is this document being released at all?

Republicans in Congress should reject any legislative activity on immigration while the Democrats hold the Senate and the White House. There is no possibility that a bill even minimally acceptable to conservatives could win approval from Reid and Obama. As Bill Kristol, no restrictionist he, wrote on Thursday: “No immigration votes in 2014. Kill the bills.”

That doesn’t mean thinking through this issue shouldn’t take place outside Congress. This, after all, is what think tanks and journals of opinion are for. My piece in the most recent issue of NR, for instance, lays out a possible road map; others should spell out their own ideas as well, both in principle and in detail.

NRO’s editors had it right earlier this week: “Don’t just do something, stand there.” Nothing in these standards changes that.

— Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.


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