No Proof in Pence
How many ways can you say "amnesty"?


Once again, Tamar Jacoby and Cesar Conda have demonstrated that they are not serious either about protecting the United States from terrorists or about assimilating immigrants. (See “Immigration Realism.”)

Among their criticisms directed at me, they condescendingly dismiss what they take to be my “outmoded ideas about enforcement” — and specifically, the measure permitting local police to check the immigration status of those who violate civil law.

I admit it: along with many others — notably John Ashcroft’s chief immigration-enforcement official, Kris W. Kobach — I believe that local police should have the authority to check a future Mohammed Atta’s immigration status. Remember that four of the 9/11 terrorists were stopped for speeding, but their illegal-immigration status was not checked. Jacoby and Conda and the Senate would strip this essential tool from local law enforcement, pretending to live in a September 10 world. Five years after 9/11, maybe it is “outmoded” of me to worry so much about such thing.

Put-downs are one thing, but dissembling is quite another. Jacoby and Conda’s claim that my article “never mentions” workforce enforcement is simply false. The very first paragraph of the article, quoting an open letter on immigration from conservatives, insists that “the border and interior enforcement must be funded, operational, implemented, and proven successful” (emphasis added), and the letter that started this all itself explicitly states, “Today, we need proof that enforcement (both at the border and in the interior) is successful before anything else happens.”

Not only did Jacoby and Conda misread me, but they also miscalculated in another of their claims. They ridiculed my reference to the Hagel-Martinez (a.k.a. Reid-Kennedy) Senate bill as “mostly Democratic.” Well, let’s do the math. By 32-22 (59 percent) Senate Republicans opposed the bill. House Republicans voted 203-17 (92 percent) for the Sensenbrenner-King bill. Combining House and Senate Republicans, 85 percent oppose the Senate approach. On the other hand, Senate Democrats voted 40-4 (91 percent) for Hagel-Martinez and opposed the House bill 164-36 (82 percent). Combining House and Senate Democrats, 84 percent supported the Senate approach. Hence, by any reasonable standard, “comprehensive” means “mostly Democratic.” (By the way, I do not “scorn bi-partisanship,” as Jacoby and Conda charge; our “enforcement first” open letter publicly thanked the 36 House Democrats and Senate Democrats who opposed the Senate’s amnesty.)

The main purpose of their article, however, is “bait and switch.” After gushing over McCain-Kennedy, and touting Hagel-Martinez, Jacoby and Conda are now telling us that Pence-Hutchison is the answer. But as Senator Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) wisely warned, Pence-Hutchison “must not become law.” Sessions (a true conservatives’ conservative, to borrow Jacoby-Conda’s lingo) criticizes Pence-Hutchison because it “will allow for a virtually unlimited number of immigrants” and these “workers will be overwhelmingly low-skilled.” Sessions notes Pence-Hutchison gives no preference to English speakers and high-skilled workers. In June, Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa described the original Pence plan as “more dangerous than the Senate bill” because, in the end, it will attract even more illegal immigrants.

As an NRO editorial explained last week, Pence-Hutchison is not serious about enforcement. While the guest-worker-amnesty portion of the scheme is not supposed to begin until border enforcement is secured (the much heralded “trigger” mechanism), the measures used to determine when and if the border has been secured are strictly bureaucratic; they are not results-oriented — that is, they don’t require proof that the border has actually been secured. As the editorial put it, “The amnesty would go into effect even if there were no evidence that the illegal population was shrinking.”

Sadly, if Pence-Hutchison becomes law, this farcical show that elites of both the Right and Left put on for the American people will continue. And that’s the whole point of the “comprehensive” plan — pretend to have tough enforcement while exponentially increasing the supply of cheap labor (which the rest of us subsidize in taxes, health, and education costs) for the sake of special interests. Then, after a decent interval, have another amnesty, and start the whole process again.

Jacoby and Conda tell us that Pence-Hutchison is both “realistic” and “tough.” As an example, they proclaim that the low-skilled, formerly illegal immigrants “would have two years to learn English and if they didn’t their visas wouldn’t be renewed.” And then what? Are we supposed to believe that Jacoby and Conda and Kennedy-Reid-McCain-Hagel et. al. will advocate deporting those amnestied guest-workers who don’t pass an English test?

Jacoby and Conda claim that they are all for assimilating immigrants as patriotic Americans. That’s a great idea, but I have offered them specific measures: to wit, dismantle the anti-assimilation agenda of the last few decades by ending bilingual ballots, bilingual education, ethnic and racial group preferences for new immigrants, and dual allegiance citizenship for naturalized Americans. (Incredibly, an immigrant American citizen was just elected to the Mexican congress last month. So much for the Oath of Allegiance to the United States that he took.)

Finally, Jacoby and Conda present a caricature of my position on assimilation. Obviously, I do not believe that “we face a choice between immigration and assimilation.” But, I do believe that we face a real choice on immigration/assimilation issues between (a) an intelligent immigration policy, which puts national interests ahead of special interests and emphasizes high skills over low skills, combined with patriotic assimilation measures and serious border and interior enforcement, and (b) the Jacoby-Conda plan — that is, massive, almost unlimited, increases in low-skilled immigration, rhetorical, but little real, support for enforcement, and opposition to serious assimilation measures.

– John Fonte is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.


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