The immigration debate: The good, the bad, and the ugly – and suggestions

This post is an extension of the thoughts I expressed in this one, which I wrote a few days ago.

I think the Republican party has lost its collective mind. I don’t think I’ve ever been more ashamed to be a Republican than I have been after these last few weeks. Why? I’m appalled at some of the rhetoric, tactics, blatant hypocrisy, and pot-calling-the-kettle-black that has been on display on both sides of the conservative aisle on the immigration issue, and I say this as someone who isn’t in any side’s “camp” but is just frustrated on the whole with how the debate was conducted. And before I really get going on this, let me just say that I know that not everyone who argued for or against this bill is guilty of what I’m about to discuss, but it was far more than just the ‘fringe’ in the Republican party who made the Nutroots look like bastions of civility and maturity by comparison. Also, I will be using the terms “we” “us” “let’s” “our” quite a bit in general, and should not be construed into meaning “all.” I’m well aware there are exceptions to the rule.

The issue of illegal immigration, as we all know by now, is one of the most – if not the most – hotly debated issues in the country and has been even since before the President was elected back in 2000. Understandably emotions run high no matter who’s talking about it, because not only is it considered a cultural issue, but a national security issue, too. The debates primarily consist of but are not limited to what to do with the estimated 12 million illegals we already have here (deport ’em all? Jail ’em?), what to do about the ones pouring over our borders and draining our resources and, as some say, steal our jobs, how to more effectively secure our borders in order to keep potential terrorists out of our country, and how to strengthen our existing laws against illegals who will come here.

I don’t question the good intentions the conservatives who opposed this bill had/have, nor did I oppose the calls to contact and put pressure on Congressional representatives from both the House and Senate to oppose this bill. As citizens of this great country, it is our right and duty to get involved in the democratic process and that includes writing and calling our Congressional reps when we’re in favor of something, as well as letting them know when we oppose something. As our representatives, they have an idea of how we feel on the issues in general, but if we don’t let them know how we feel on certain key controversial issues, they’re going to cast their votes without that knowledge in mind. It is fascinating to see how this country’s government works when the citizens of it actually take an active role in trying to inject change on issues that are important to them. Generations ago, men died for our right to play active, not passive, roles in our government, so it is vital for the survival of our nation that we not take that right for granted.

By the same token, I don’t question the president’s good intentions on wanting to pass ‘comprehensive immigration reform.’ He came into the WH after being a two-term governor of the border state of Texas, and it wasn’t exactly a secret that he was in favor of naturalization then, so the positions he’s taken on the issue of illegal immigration have not been a shock to me, nor should they have been to anyone else. To accuse the President of ‘betrayal’ on this issue when his position should have been well-known from the getgo is baffling to me.

What I despised, deplored, and was disgusted by throughout all this was the way conservatives treated each other as it related to disagreements over this issue. There were strong arguments for and against this bill, but lost in all that was the need to “one up” the opposition, whether it was Senator Graham foolishly accusing the bill’s opponents of being “bigots”, the President wrongly questioning the patriotism of conservative critics or people like Tom Tancredo and others like him claiming that anyone who didn’t oppose every aspect of this bill “had to be” a proponent of “open borders” and “shamnesty” and were, essentially, “traitors” to their country for “not wanting to secure its borders.” Incidentally, Tom Tancredo is a guy I do not respect, considering he’s not just against illegal immigration, but he’s against legal immigration as well.1 Tancredo is popular with many on the anti-immigration bill side, and I hope to see more denounciations of his suggestion in the immediate future. Of course, I have to wonder how many Tancredo supporters agree with that sentiment, especially since he’s been expressing it for a few years now and has maintained his popularity amongst staunch immigration bill opponents. Oh, and let’s not forget the calls for impeachment from Michael Savage and Pat Buchanan, either. Along with that, there’s at least one full thread devoted to Bush’s impeachment not at the Daily Kos or the usual Nutroot hangouts … but the Free Republic. This is insanity.

Conservatives talk all the time about how liberals shouldn’t whine about “hurt feelings” and tell them they need to “suck it up” but deep down, conservatives, too, are very passionate about what they believe in and they get hurt and angry when members of their own party start insulting them over policy disagreements. It’s not wimpy to be honest by admitting that. And let’s not pretend that the insulting only started once President and key members of the administration started badmouthing opponents of this bill. It’s been going on for a while now, because the immigration issue can’t seem to get resolved in Congress no matter how often its brought up, because it’s so contentious and the warring factions can’t come to an agreement as to what the final bill should look like because so many people involved in the debate are “all or nothing” types. I can’t count the number of times over the years I’ve seen accusations towards the President of of “being in bed with the Mexican president” by other conservatives, calling the president “Jorge,” putting his face on the Mexican peso, assertions that the president is a ‘sell-out’ and ‘apparently doesn’t care about national security’ which is total BS, because he’s taken a lot of crap from the usual suspects on the left about the Patriot Act, Gitmo, warrantless wiretapping – you name it. Just about every measure the President has taken in order to reduce the chances of another attack on our soil has been vilified by the left. He’s been accused of going ‘too far’ so let’s not kid ourselves by thinking that because he doesn’t take the typical conservative view on illegal immigration, that he’s not concerned about our national security.

Our best chance to get a remotely meaningful immigration bill has passed because we no longer have control of Congress and likely won’t for years to come. Sure, under the Republican Congress the issue didn’t get resolved the last time it came up but we still would have stood a better shot at getting even a halfway decent bill had Republicans maintained control of Congress. As it stands, they didn’t, so we’re stuck with what we have now: A Democratic House we have little to no control over, and a Democratic Senate that has more often than not been gridlocked, thanks in large part to the leadership of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who, in spite of his woefully ignorant comment about “I don’t think there’s a single member of either party next year who is going to fail to be re-elected over this [immigration] issue,” has been a solid rock in the Senate by playing Senate Majority Harry Reid like a fiddle. I disagree with anyone, including my friend John Hawkins, who believes that because of one ignorant comment by McConnell, that he’s “mediocre” and “out of touch” and shouldn’t be reelected next year and should be replaced by a candidate nobody knows. McConnell’s strengths far outweigh his weaknesses and if I were a constituent in Kentucky, I would personally campaign on behalf of the Senator for his reelection, the same as I would Senator Jon Kyl, who was considered a rock-ribbed conservative until he decided to join the compromise for a meaningful immigration bill both sides could (hopefully) come together on and from there on was, like any other Republican who shared similar viewpoints to his, villified as a sell out and traitor to his country.

I frequently read arguments from some of the people who opposed this bill who say, “better no bill than this one.” While I understand the sentiment behind it, I don’t agree with it in this case, because if we don’t do something about this issue now (and by “now” I mean before this Congressional term is over), the immigration bill under a Democratic administration (which I think we’ll have) is going to make Bush’s “shamnesty” bill look like the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel. I’m ok with the bill being ‘tabled’ for now, but I want it resolved before the election year campaigning starts going full force next year, because if this thing keeps getting shoved to the back burner, we can look forward to one of the worst illegal immigration ‘solutions’ this country has ever seen and it could very well happen under a Democrat president’s ‘leadership’ and if Democrats get more seats in the Senate, we will be powerless to stop a real “shamnesty” plan, because do you think they’re going to give a damn what Republicans have to say about it?

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years about the issues that are the most important to me, it’s to learn to be happy with the little victories because the big victories are hard to come by. Take, for example, abortion. It’s no secret that I oppose abortion, but I’m also a realist and realize that abortion can’t be outlawed tomorrow. It’s just not going to happen. So I take comfort in the little victories – like the ban on PBA, and the restrictions on funding for embryonic stem cell research and US funding for international abortions (both advocated by this President, BTW). Those are baby steps (no pun intended) towards a – hopefully – change in attitude on right to life issues. I believe that step by step with each small victory, one day, we just may get to a point in this country where babies aren’t looked at as a “choice” but instead a “child” by an overwhelming majority of the American people. That will be the “big victory” for me. Abortion, as I’ve said before, is my “no compromise” issue, so if the party ever did turn it’s back on its pro-life platform, I’d be saying goodbye.

I think conservatives need to take the same approach with respect to the immigration issue. We simply aren’t going to get everything we want in an immigration bill. We’re going to have to take a little bad with the good. And as I noted earlier, if we don’t get this issue resolved soon, it may very well be in the hands of a Democrat administration to deal with. Which would you rather see? Have it resolved this year? Or under a Hillary or Obama adminstration? I shudder at the thought of any of the Dem nominees in charge of securing our borders and tackling the illegal immigration issue.

Was this bill “amnesty”? No, it wasn’t, as the USAToday explains today in an editorial I agree with much of:

Over time, illegal immigrants would have to pay fines and fees of more than $9,000 (plus thousands more for each family member). They’d have to prove they’re working and have no significant criminal record. They’d have to learn English and American civics. And, if they want legal permanent residence, they’d have to return to their home country to apply for it there. Getting a green card would take at least eight years, citizenship at least 13.

I don’t really consider that “amnesty” nor “fast-tracking” and I’m not sure how anyone else could, either. What am I missing?

The 1986 immigration bill Reagan signed into law (gosh, I guess he too was a ‘sell-out’ and traitor to his country?) paved the way for the problems we see now, problems that Bush inherited when he was elected president. The president has essentially said when he talks about illegal immigration (and I agree with him) that it is not practical nor economical to arrest and deport the millions of illegals we have here. The cost to beef up law enforcement and build more jails to hunt for, arrest, and deport illegals would be astronomical and likely much higher than the cost it would be to keep them working here. Why not have them pay the fine and take the other steps necessary to become legal? Yes, I know that the fine would probably keep a lot of them from stepping up to the plate, but it’ll be a hell of a lot easier to have the ones who do want to step up to the plate, rather than go on an illegal immigrant round up that won’t yield the results we’d be hoping it would (as we’ve seen all too often over the last few years). Not only that, but then they’d become actual citizens of this country and they’d be paying their taxes and contributing to society just like everybody else instead of mooching off of it. That way, our law enforcement could primarily focus on more serious crimes rather than wasting their time in fruitless roundups.

What’s that? Some of the illegals commit crimes? Oh yes, believe me I know. There is not a month that goes by where I don’t hear of a car accident that was caused by an illegal immigrant caught driving drunk going the wrong way. It’s enraging. If illegals became legal, when stuff like that happens, they’d face a much stronger sentence than just ‘deportation’ because we all know that when they’re deported, the ones who do commit these crimes are just going to keep coming back and getting away with more crimes, no matter how solid our border are/will be. This problem deserves realism, not idealism.

As to the question of “why have laws penalizing people for being here illegally when you’re not going to enforce them?” It’s a good question, but one that again has to be looked at from a realistic standpoint, considering what has transpired since the 1986 immigration law was signed. The government has already screwed up by not enforcing existing immigration laws to the point that illegals have flooded our borders by the millions making deportation an unrealistic answer just due to the sheer numbers. Telling these people that they are going to be arrested and deported isn’t going to bring them out of the shadows. If anything, it’s going to push them even further back. Encourage them to come out of the shadows and become legal members of society, while at the same time strengthening ALL of our borders so the same problem doesn’t keep happening. And while we’re at it, don’t make things so bleeping hard for people who HAVE obeyed the laws when applying for citizenship in this country.

And like it or not, these illegals are contributing to our economy in positive ways (scroll), but obviously they would more if they were legal. Do I detest the way they’re draining our public resources (like in the California healthcare system, for example)? Yep. That’s why I don’t want to make it harder for them to become legal. If these people become legal, there would be less of a burden for states like California to fund healthcare (for example) because they’d be getting more tax money from more legal workers coming in to help manage the burden of keeping public services in place for those who need them. Making them legal would also force them into real job competition, with the advantage being that not only would legal American workers who’ve been here all their lives stop getting the short end of the stick, but the newly legalized American worker could actually be getting paid more over the table than under it.

Now, on to the hypocrisy factor and other misc thoughts:

1) We Republicans joke all the time about Democrats and their party purity as it relates to any number of issues and how party purity and ‘one issue’ voters are bad for the party, but on the issue of immigration, we don’t mind being purists ourselves, do we? There’s no middle room, no wiggle room. It’s just “them versus us” with both sides throwing out nasty accusations about the other. Republicans cannot complain about Democratic party purity with the same face anymore, not after this.

2) I remember reading this week a Washington Times article about how “big business” was lobbying heavily in favor of this bill, presumably because without the cheap labor, their companies would have a hard time making it. As a result of that article, there was quite a bit of snark in the conservosphere about how evil big business was, which I found a bit curious, considering that we normally don’t frown when big business directly or indirectly influences certain federal policies on taxes, among other things. The complaints I heard about that sounded suspiciously like the left’s round-the-clock non-stop complaints about evil big businesses and how they were so evil for actually wanting to make a profit. Big businesses want cheap labor? I’m truly shocked. Not.

3) The complaint about the attempt at shoving this bill through without much debate: Yeah, I totally agree, but I also remember how House Majority Leader Tom DeLay used to shove stuff through the House and make an end run around the normal legislative process to keep the opposition’s opposition to a minimum. He was applauded and admired for that, but this time around it’s not right? It’s not right – period – so a little more consistency on that argument is in order, I think.

4) One of the most outrageously hypocritical and bizarre things to come out of this drama was the sudden rampant fawning over Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND). This is a guy who had a piece published this week in National Review railing against the current immigration bill, a piece that was referenced aplenty by conservatives, some of who apparently were either duped, too ignorant to do a little background check on their new found go-to Democrat, or didn’t care because he happened to be voting alongside immigration bill opponents. Who is this man? Senator Dorgan is a solid liberal with a lifetime 85% rating from the ADA and he did not oppose the “shamnesty” bill on principle – he opposed it because he’s a slave to labor unions (in 2003, he had a 92% rating with the AFL-CIO). So, no, he wasn’t interested in protecting the American worker per se, he was interested in protecting the American unions, which, of course, translates into votes for him. In other words, like a typical liberal, he tried to make it look like he was ‘looking out for the people’ but in reality was only looking out for himself, which is, incidentally, what some of the opponents of the bill were accusing the proponents of doing! Yet somehow, I’m supposed to get whipped up into a patriotic frenzy because this solidly-liberal union guy happened to be a Democrat on the ‘anti-illegal immigration’ side? Spare me. And while the strange Dorgan-“kill bill” alliance was being forged, some of the same people calling me and others ‘open borders traitors and sell outs’ were having a grand old time chuckling about weird and ‘traitorous’ alliances between a solid conservative like Jon Kyl and a solid liberal like Ted Kennedy. Talk about chutzpah!

5) Senator Reid’s claim that the Senate was taking “too long” to vote on this bill. Um, get a clue, clueless. Exactly how many months did it take for the House and Senate to settle on a war supp they were confident they could get the President to sign? If anything, the opposite should have happened here where the war supp was passed and signed in short order and the immigration bill taken several months to hash out. It doesn’t take months of debate to figure out that our troops in harms way need to be funded and quickly, but it does take months to debate an immigration bill reasonable people can get behind. Duh.

6) The administration’s attitude towards criticism of the bill was just weird. I mean, how many times in the past on any number of issues have we heard the President say in one form or another that “reasonable people can disagree”? Yet over this, apparently any disagreement was unreasonable? Please. Now, I can understand if he logged online and saw all the comments from the likes of the people calling him “Jorge” and accusing him of a derelection of duty on the issue of immigration because he supposedly wanted to ‘sell out to Mexico and big business’ but surely he had to have seen the other more rational criticisms coming from the likes of National Review? If he didn’t, there really must be some truth to the accusation thrown around by the left that the President is a little too insulated for his own good.

7) On the other hand, even though I have been disappointed in how the administration responded to the criticisms levelled at them over this bill, I was a little surprised to see the reactions to the criticism from some of those opposed to the bill. The level of vitriol that has been thrown at the President over this issue for years has been voluminous, so at some point he and others in the admin were bound to respond back in kind. That’s not an excuse, BTW, just a speculation at an explanation. The President is supposed to be above the fray and not engage in some of the same arguments used against him, all the same, people shouldn’t be shocked when it happens. Yes, a lot of the people who felt personally attacked by the President and the admin were upset because they’ve been loyal to him through thick and thin yet some of those same people were the very ones engaged in the “Jorge” “sell out” “impeachment” arguments. When some people on the right start making attacks on the President that resemble something the Nutroots left would say, in all likelihood someone in the admin – sometimes even the President himself – is going to bite back. Think Joe Scarborough. We have always loved it when the President has fought back against some of the more outrageous criticism from the left over the policies he advocates, yet don’t like it so much when he uses some of that same bite against certain critics who don’t sound any different than those on the left.

Have you been discouraged over the President’s stance on the issue to the point you’re asking yourself “I’ve been loyal to the bone to this President, and this is the thanks I get?” Well, the Anchoress provided a reminder this week of just how much the President has done for us and if you click on this post and scroll about midway down, you’ll see. Has he been perfect? No. In fact, there are times when the President has driven us absolutely nuts (like the admin’s tepid and defensive response to the fired attorneys non-scandal, for starters). But in the heat of the moment and with all the back and forth about this issue, we have forgetten about all the other stances he’s taken that we’ve agreed with and cheered him over. Now more than ever is a good time for a reminder of that.

It’s going to take me a while to get over how this debate was waged by both sides. To say I’m disillusioned would be an understatement. I’m starting to see calls for ‘healing’ in the conservosphere over this issue. For me, it’ll be a while before that happens. Instead of handling the issue with class and maturity, the debate over the years on this issue has disintegrated into back and forth name-calling with claims of the opposition being ‘traitors’ or ‘bigots,’ and came full circle this last week – not very mature, not at all healthy for the overall public discourse, and certainly not worthy of being in the majority in DC. While in the meantime, the rational arguments on either side of the debate have all but been ignored or marginalized. We’ve proven – with this debate – beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we can’t have disagreement in this party without turning it into a schoolyard brawl. Furthermore, we’ve shown that when all is said and done and the dust is cleared, that we refuse to take responsiblity for our reckless rhetoric towards each other and in turn do what the left routinely does when they start playing the “shift the blame” game: We blame it on Bush.

Why are we ripping ourselves apart? In spite of our disagreements, we are supposed to be on the same team. Getting the Senate to wait on voting on the immigration bill when they were initially trying to shove it through, and then getting the Senate to essentially ‘kill’ the bill for now – all of that could have been accomplished without conservatives turning on each other like they were mortal enemies. Is this how we’re going to act everytime we disagree with each other (and we know this isn’t the first time this has happened)? If so, count me out.

It’s never a bad thing in the aftermath of a battle to reflect back and figure out where we went wrong, and how we can do better.

We can do better. We must do better.


Bonus: Though he’s come out in opposition of the “shamnesty” bill, here’s a flashback on Fred Thompson:

However, in the Senate, Thompson voted in 1998 for a bill that established a temporary farm worker program, similar to the guest worker program supported by Bush.

John Vinson, president of American Immigration Control, said no candidate is perfect but believes there are reasons to oppose Thompson.

“I’m happy he condemned the bill in the Senate,” Vinson told Cybercast News Service. “But I’m bothered he doesn’t seem to think we should encourage them to go back.”

Do you believe Thompson’s being truthful, or just rolling with the anti-illegal immigration bill tidal wave?

Talk to me.


Think I’m the only one who feels this way? I’ve already noted one post by the Anchoress, but here are a few others who’ve been similarly frustated: Dafydd at Big Lizards, J’s Cafe Nette, Sigmund, Carl, and Alfred, Beth at MY VRWC, Lorie Byrd, Dee aka Little Miss Chatterbox


1:34 AM: I have done some minor editing of this post for clarification and spell-checking to this post in the last hour, but the central point of the post has not changed.


  1. Since I’ve been chastized over not mentioning it, for the record Tancredo is calling for a ‘temprary’ moratorium on legal immigration. But temporary or permanent, does it really matter? It’s an outrageous suggestion, not to mention a slippery slope. [back]

Comments are closed.