The Corner

Groundhog Day for Immigration

The Wall Street Journal profile on Rubio’s amnesty plan makes me want to take piano lessons or learn ice sculpture — because it’s Groundhog Day for immigration policy, and it’s like yesterday never happened.

I don’t mean that politicians should necessarily be chastened by past defeats. There are no lost causes and no gained causes in a democracy (or not many, anyway), and if the side that was defeated by the bipartisan surge of public anger in 2007 wants to try a comeback, that’s the way the game is played.

But the specific policies Ned Ryerson Rubio is selling are just the same old, same old: “earned” amnesty for illegal aliens plus de facto unlimited immigration, in exchange for promises to some day implement E-Verify and build more fencing.

Even worse, what makes me want to throw a toaster into the bath tub is the utter lack of awareness that nothing Rubio’s saying is even remotely novel. Either he or the writer, Matthew Kaminski, or both, don’t seem to realize we’re hearing I Got You, Babe all over again. Rubio’s plan is described as one that “charges up the middle,” between “the liberal fringe that seeks broad amnesty for illegal immigrants and the hard right’s obsession with closing the door” — as though any element of Rubio’s proposal would be a deal breaker for the left.

This phony triangulation theme has been a hallmark of Republican politicians trying to convince their voters that they’re not just doing what the Democrats want them to do. After describing Rubio’s idea that there would be different stages of amnesty, we learn from the writer that “The staged process won’t please either the blanket amnesty crowd or the Minutemen” — except, of course, that the “staged” or “earned” amnesty was dreamed up by the Left in the first place. Again, the writer paraphrases Rubio: “The president, he says, would need to bring over Big Labor and talk back the most ardent pro-immigration groups from ‘unrealistic’ positions on citizenship for illegals.” The “most ardent pro-immigration” groups invented the “earned pathway to citizenship” charade that Rubio is selling. The only part of a Republican amnesty plan the Democrats could have a problem with is an expansion of the already-too-numerous guestworker system; but since any GOP amnesty bill is sure to provide a green card after a few years to the ostensibly temporary workers, the lefties won’t even object that hard. Rubio is doing the Left’s heavy-lifting for them, and seems to genuinely believe that “Immigration is actually an important part of affirming a limited-government movement.” (This despite Pew’s finding that Hispanics have the most negative view of capitalism of any demographic or economic group measured.)

With an amazing lack of self-awareness, “Mr. Rubio repeatedly says his plan ‘is not blanket amnesty or a special pathway to citizenship.’” You know what would be new? If a politician came out and said, “Look, folks, I don’t like it any more than you, but we screwed the pooch for so long we’re stuck with no other options — we need to eat the crap sandwich of amnesty and try to make a fresh start of this national sovereignty thing.” I don’t believe that to be the case, but it would be by far the most convincing case for amnesty I’ve heard.

Until then, I’m going to head up the street and catch that kid who’s going to fall out of the tree.

Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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