2007 June 09 Saturday
National Review Still Wobbly On Immigration

A National Review editorial on immigration illustrates what is wrong with the thinking of NR's editors:

Instead of “comprehensive” reform, Bush should choose a second option: consecutive reform.

This advocacy of "consecutive reform" amounts to the editors of the National Review advising Bush on how he can eventually arrive at a point where it becomes politically possible to institute an amnesty and guest worker program. These editors are not using the term consecutive to mean "first control the border and then start deporting the illegals". No, no. They are providing counsel to George W. Bush, enemy of the conservative base, on how he can eventually get his wishes over the strongly held beliefs of said conservative base which the National Review's writers claim to see as their own base.

During this debate, both the comprehensivists and their opponents have stressed the critical need to control the border and to give employers a reliable system to verify the legal status of their workers. There is no reason that either imperative should wait on resolution of the amnesty or guest-worker questions. The administration has often said that enforcement cannot work without an amnesty or guest-worker program; but it has refuted that claim by pointing out that its border-enforcement measures have brought the number of illegal crossings down.

Good point on the enforceability of border controls. This Bush administration improvement in border enforcement that they speak of was a cynical attempt by Bush to pretend to the public that he was finally going to stop illegal immigration and he was doing that only in order to convert the same level of illegal flow into an even larger legal flow of the same people. Why try to give strategic advice to someone so dishonest?

But they do not even go far enough in describing what is obviously true. Not only is enforcement possible, but role-back of the illegal horde is possible as well. Republican President Dwight "I like Ike" Eisenhower showed with Operation Wetback it was possible for a small group of immigration enforcement agents to round up and deport tens of thousands of illegal aliens and, by doing so, to spur hundreds of thousands to leave.

The National Review editors are merely "skeptical" about the wisdom of so-called "temporary" worker programs or amnesty.

When Americans are confident that the government is committed to enforcing any immigration laws, they will be more open to changes to those laws. We are skeptical about the need for a guest-worker program or a sweeping amnesty. But we would be willing to debate these policies in a few years’ time. They are not even worth debating, however, until we know that we are not merely legalizing millions of illegal immigrants while inviting millions more to be legalized in some future round of “reform.”

So what are they opposed to here? Are they only opposed to the invitation for millions more to come? Or are they also opposed to amnesty for the ones already here?

Still have doubts about whether the NR folks are wobbly? Well, consider some issue which evokes firmer reactions. How about gay marriage? Here's what you'll never see them write:

We remain skeptical about gay marriage. We believe that first we should strengthen the bonds of traditional marriage. Once we've done that we would be willing to debate gay marriage in a few years time.

They are far less ambivalent about where they stand on gay marriage than they are about Third World immigration, the expanded lower class it brings, and the inevitable shift leftward that it produces.

This NR ambivalence on immigration finds no equivalent among the mass of conservatives who overwhelmingly want less immigration period. The NR's editors are not taking their wobbly position on immigration due to some reflexively ambivalent approach to issues in general. By contrast, most of them are absolutely certain that neoconservative Lewis "Scooter" Libby should get pardoned for perjury and obstruction of justice. Check out here and here and here and even William F. Buckley here.. Though a couple of NR writers are less than nutty on Libby: Andy McCarthy and John Derbyshire (Derb again). While the recent attempt by US Senators to pass an immigration amnesty riled up conservatives (and quite a lot of moderates and liberals as well) to a level of anger not seen in many years Daniel Larison points out that what motivates the (at least supposedly) conservative elites is Lewis Libby. If only the NR crowd could get sustainably worked up about immigration restriction the way they do about Libby the nation would be much better off.

The NR crowd and other prominent (supposed) conservatives make recurring mistakes in their thinking. First off, they simply do not think enough about real evidence. They live in the realm of arguments and wordsmithing rather than in the realm of scientific evidence. Second, part of their failure to use evidence stems from accepting the boundaries of acceptable discussion that their supposed enemies the liberals set for them. Third, they trumpet narrow elite interests (e.g. Scooter Libby as compared to those two Border Patrol agents Compean and Ramos as candidates for pardon) over mass interests. Fourth, they put partisan politics (e.g. reflexive unthinking support for Bush as pack leader) ahead of positions arrived at through thinking. As a result, their priorities are consistently wrong and their positions are too often wrong.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 June 09 11:45 AM  Immigration Politics

Craig said at June 10, 2007 1:03 AM:

Well, the open borders freaks have been playing their own version of bait-and-switch for a long time, so why can't we get into the act?

So now let us say: give us enforcement NOW, and maybe, if you're lucky, we'll give you amnesty later.

Meanwhile, Americans get to see all the benefits of enforcment - delcines in crime rates, better paying summer jobs for their kids, better student-teacher ratios in the schools, lower taxes, less crowded and less dangerous roads, and increasing pay for the working class. They also get to see how bogus is the claim that "you can't deport 12 million people."

The open borders freaks don't want Americans to learn how much better things would be in a nation with a few million less illegals. That's why they won't bite - not now, not ever.

That's why it probably would've been better if the amnesty had passed - amnesty is the only way for Americans to get angry enough to replace the current traitors in office. Otherwise, they'll just return to obsessing about Paris Hilton and Lidsey Lohan. Because let's face it: there's no way in hell we'll ever get a decent enforcement bill out of THIS congress.

Bob Badour said at June 10, 2007 10:13 AM:


The US doesn't need enforcement legislation. All the US needs is enforcement.

PJ said at June 10, 2007 12:00 PM:

"Well, the open borders freaks have been playing their own version of bait-and-switch for a long time, so why can't we get into the act?"

I agree with this sentiment. I think the editorial is being misinterpreted and
I dont think the complaint against NR as wishy-washy is merited.
NR, if you look at Frum, Derbyshire, Mark Levin and their giving space to Mark Krakorian - has been very solid
and clear in opposition to amnesty. Amnesty - in the form of any open-ended "illegal immigrants get a path to citizenship"
plan - is not favored by NR nor most real conservatives, and it never will be favored.

NR is wisely retorting to the canards of the amnesty supporters who demand that we 'do something'.
They also know that we need to end the absurdity of using border security - a fundamental must-have -
as a bargaining chip for bad ideas like amnesty. So yes, the editorial is saying, let's secure the border
and enforce the laws WE ALREADY HAVE and deport the criminal aliens already in our custody FIRST, before
we even TALK about anything else. Only after we have done the above ... then we can talk.

Now, the fact is that it took 20 years of neglect on the border and 20 years of failure to enforce immigration law
to get into this mess. We wont get out of it quickly. But even 2 years of border security and vigorous
enforcement could move us in the right direction. This can be done with no further action from Congress,
so there doesnt need to be any 'quid pro quo'. Just do it.

And by the time it's proven out, Bush will be out of the White House.
We will face pro-amnesty pro-chain-migration Obama or Clinton,
or face a Republican more aware/burned by conservative ire and attuned to being against amnesty,
for assimilation/English-only and for considering conservative changes to legal
immigration, such as ending chain migration (I know this much - John McCain will never be president).

So then we can talk about changing our legal immigration system. Should the enforcement and border
fence work as it should, the pressure to have amnesty would be less; otoh, the employers would
be more desperate for labor. I for one am pro-legal-immigration at moderate levels,
but I want to end anchor babies and 'chain migration'. But do you think birthright citizenship
or chain migration will get passed in this political climate? Not without a tradeoff.
Let the 'how do we deal with the current illegal immigrants here?' be dealt with in that
environment. Consequently the deal might end up:
* more secure and complete employer verification and end to sanctuary cities
* more employer-based immigration, including employer-sponsored guest worker program
* end to chain migration
* end to birthright citizenship; citizenship only if parents are legal residents
* only limited paths to legalization, and no special paths for illegal immigrants: they go back to home country
and apply for general visa categories available to others (eg guest worker visas)

This is not something the pro-chain-migration Democrats want, but then it becomes a question
of "who to accept and how many?" and how to trade off. you can push harder for your position.
But you push in a direction knowing that at least the border is secured and laws enforced.

lmg said at June 10, 2007 12:08 PM:

I don't believe the administration ever claimed that they had reduced the number of illegal crossings through enforcement. All they said was that the number of apprehensions was down. They could achieve that by putting out less of an effort.

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