As some longtime readers know, I’m not 100 percent on board with NR’s editorial positions on immigration. If tomorrow we truly solved the problem of illegal immigration, I’m sure I would be one of the loudest voices for a more generous — or liberal, if you prefer — policy on legal immigration. I think immigration is good for America, and the world. Politically, I think it is/would be crazy for conservatives to completely cede the nation-of-immigrants narrative to liberals. I’m proud, very proud, of America’s immigration story. It drives me crazy that so many American Hispanics have decided that supporting or being soft on illegal immigration is their make-or-break issue. From where I sit, American Hispanics should be extremely receptive to both economic and social conservatism. But their priorities are for them to decide.
Regardless, I’m also convinced that America has an illegal immigration problem that is best understood as an illegal Mexican immigration problem. Unless you deal with it, the issue will only get more polarizing and the problems will only get worse. I am basically in the Krauthammer camp. Secure the border and reduce the number of illegals to a manageable number, then we can talk about amnesty and even increased legal immigration.
Anyway, that’s just a long way of saying that I don’t think this is one of these issues where reasonable and committed conservatives have to be all on one side or the other of the question (there are very few such issues in my book anyway). What got me thinking about it was this email from a reader:
I am a conservative, Mormon living in Utah. I also happen to be an
immigration attorney. Though some might view that as an oxymoron, I
guess I don’t. In fact, I find much of the current conservative
response to immigration issues to be somewhat troubling as I find a
lot of it to be, quite frankly, anti-conservative. If part of
conservatism means maintaining and defending the institutions and
conventions that have been shown over time to strengthen this country,
then it seems to be that immigration falls under that description.
Of course, the response from most conservatives is that they favor
“legal” immigration, and that’s a fair argument. But the fact is that
a lot of the loudest voices, including some at NRO, don’t favor
immigration of any kind. Also, the who concept of “illegal
immigration” is a fairly modern concept. It’s my understanding that
for the longest time immigration to the U.S. was essentially
That being said, I am not an “open borders” guy. I have actually read
the constitution. I am familiar with the legal precedents. The fact
is, if the U.S. wants to shuts it border tight, that’s completely
legal and, in some ways, perhaps appropriate. Still, when I see the
hue and cry from conservatives on issues such as this new Arizona law,
it makes me profoundly uncomfortable. I just can’t help but feel that
we’re on the wrong side of this issue in many way. Perhaps I’m not a
true conservative, but I read the list of 10 (I believe) things that
conservatives should believe and I agreed with all of them. . . except
Perhaps it’s the fact that I lived in a Latino country for two years.
I saw the crushing poverty that so man of these folks are fleeing and
I came to realize that, were our positions reversed, I’d probably be
the first over wall (and likely the first to get caught since I’m kind
of a chunky fellow and probably not well suited to walking across the
Personally, I think the Comprehensive Immigration Reform is dead. It
isn’t going to happen. However, I have some suggestions for small,
incremental reforms that I think Republicans could support and which,
IMO, would go along way.
1. Extend the 245(i) program. The current deadline is April 31, 2001.
Extend it to April 31, 2011. Also, increase the fine from $1000 to
$2500. This way, any immigrant who is married to a U.S. citizen could
prior to that date could pay the fine, pay for their adjustment (right
now that costs about $2565) and become legal permanent residents. I
can’t tell you how many clients I have who are married to a U.S.
citizen and that citizen has petitioned for them but they are afraid
to go any further because in most cases it means leaving the country
with absolutely no guarantee that they can get back. And even when
they qualify to come back it can take up to two or more years during
which time most of the families live apart.
2. Pass the DREAM Act already. I have many clients who were brought
to this country when they were mere infants. In may cases, they don’t
even speak Spanish (or it’s very limited). They’ve lived here their
whole lives and, IMO, its simply not fair to make the child pay for
the sins of the fathers.
3. Grant immigration judges more discretion to determine which
illegal immigrants merit relief and which ones don’t. Right now, for
the most common form of relief, the standard we have to show is
“extreme and unusual hardship” to the U.S. citizen relative. In most
cases, that means unless one of the U.S. citizen kids has some
horrible disease or illness, the family will likely be sent back. If
we could just go back to the “extreme hardship” standard (which was
the pre-1997 standard), that would be very helpful. As it is, the law
favors single mothers with a passel of kids and a deadbeat husband,
which isn’t good immigration policy.
Those three changes would clear up about 90% of my caseload right now.
Screw the “guest worker” program. That isn’t viable and I don’t see
it happening. And who knows, this might even help the economy. I
have literally dozens of clients who a dying to buy homes, but the
don’t dare because they are afraid they’d lose it all. Anecdotally,
at least, it would seem a potential untapped market for many things.
And there you have my views. Take it for what its worth.