Rick Santorum had never been especially distinctive on immigration. He was pretty good on enforcement issues, but his constant invocation of his immigrant father and grandfather suggested to me that he might be one of those people who needs to compensate for the grievous sin of supporting immigration enforcement by calling for increased legal immigration.
I was wrong. On Friday at a campaign event in South Carolina he called for an end to the Visa Lottery and to chain migration of “extended family.” He wasn’t specific about the meaning of “extended family,” but even if he means only the brother-sister category, that would be a combined reduction of more than 100,000 new legal immigrants per year. What’s more, those two categories are the ones that cause what in the arms-control business they call “lateral proliferation” — the establishment of new migration streams that give rise to future illegal immigration pressures and political demands for increased legal immigration. Even though he also called for an increase in temporary farmworker visas (they’re already unlimited, but farmers don’t like the requirements), it’s still the first time in this campaign — or any other recent presidential one, I think — that any major candidate has called for curbs on legal immigration. As a result, Numbers USA has upgraded him to an A-minus. I still think Romney’s the least-bad overall, but I hope this will be a precedent for the Romney-Martinez campaign in the fall.