The Corner

Immigration Questions

I’d like to keep experimenting with a “glass half full” interpretation of an admittedly difficult political situation. Given the president’s security proposals, it’s tough to see how he could veto a proper wall and additional agents to enforce the law against businesses. Once the president starts playing the security game, he has no principled or politically effective way of rejecting more of it. If the House forced a proper wall and more immigration agents for internal enforcement into the bill, would conservatives be able to live with, say, one third as many temporary workers as the president is calling for?

Admittedly, I haven’t focused on this debate much till now. Ideally, I’d like to see all illegals blocked. Why? Because they’re illegal. And the “temporary worker” notion does seem to in fact spell amnesty. But I’d still like to find a way out of this political mess. I’d like to stop illegal immigration, but I’d also like to stop the Republican Party from killing itself. So the question is, would conservatives be able to swallow any compromise between a senate bill matching the president’s speech, and the much tougher House position?

While I can imagine a compromise (real fence, internal enforcement, one-third as many temporary workers as requested) working, I’m also willing to believe that the best political solution is no bill at all. Given the current fiasco, the total failure of a bill would probably make this whole issue go away for some time. And that would help prevent the party from splitting. But it might also be argued that it’s too late to push the issue away. The Democrats will keep using it, and business Republicans will keep pushing it.

So my question is, could conservatives live with a compromise bill that entailed a proper fence, more internal enforcement, and a significantly pared back version of what is admittedly some sort of amnesty? And if we can’t live with that, will the collapse of a deal insure that the issue is off the table for a long time, or will it keep coming back to split us?

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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