It’s always been hard to get a skeptical perspective on immigration represented at the marquee events at CPAC (as opposed to the smaller panels sponsored by groups paying for the privilege), what with Grover Norquist’s ongoing push to suppress any pro-sovereignty voices on the issue. But this year’s one panel on immigration, held yesterday in the main ballroom, was straight pro-amnesty agitprop. Entitled “Respecting Families and the Rule of Law: A Lasting Immigration Policy,” it was a commercial for amnesty and unlimited immigration, lacking even a token dissenter, and chock-full of cliches about immigrant family values and entrepreneurship and how amnesty will ensure victory in 2016. Representative Raul Labrador was the most hawkish member of the panel, which tells you something; he has worked as an immigration lawyer and would be a good choice for a panel discussion at a conservative gathering — but representing the least hawkish end of the spectrum, not the most.
The audience reception was decidedly cool, with one member of the audience calling out “legally!” when a panelist was singing the praises of immigration. A lone person at the right side of the ballroom clapped on cue at several open-borders applause lines, but no one followed. Other than the usual polite smattering at the end of each presentation, only non-immigration topics got any meaningful reaction, like attacking government regulation of business.
It was also telling that in the first debate of the 2016 primary season — the back-to-back speeches by Marco Rubio and Rand Paul — there was no mention of immigration policy at all. Both gave good, well-received speeches, but Paul, for his part, long ago figured out the kookier aspects of libertarianism were a dead end, and Rubio didn’t want to pour cold water on his star turn by highlighting something he knows the audience doesn’t like.
If you’re at CPAC, you can satisfy your immigration-skeptic cravings by coming to the Judicial Watch–sponsored panel this morning at 10:30 in National Harbor 2, where I’ll be the immigration person on a catch-all panel addressing a variety of issues. Conveniently, it was left off the printed program distributed to attendees.