Monday, June 4, 2007

Weekly Podium: "The Immigration Bill Controversy"

(cross-posted at The New Dominion)

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past few weeks, you know that there is a very controversial immigration bill that is being formulated and finished in the U.S. Senate right now. The general feeling among many, including myself, is that this bill creates a program that, for all intents and purposes, grants amnesty to the 12-20 million illegal immigrants in our nation. This bill concerns me as both a conservative and the son of an immigrant.

I am concerned as the son of an immigrant, because the legal path to come to America, as well as my mother’s legal path to citizenship, will be tossed aside for these immigrants who chose to come into our country by violating American law. I do not find it right to diminish the legacies of the families whose ancestors came through Ellis Island or other venues of documented, legal immigration.

We need stronger border security, and have the flow of illegal immigrants from our nation’s southern border reduced as much as possible. Also, we need illegal immigrants that are arrested for other crimes committed to be handed over to I.C.E. and deported, as well as any other illegals caught in our country.

What message does it send when we say “ok, you broke the law…now, here’s your path to citizenship.”?

To me, and my mother, and many other immigrants and their descendents, the message they receive is, “Well, thank you for obeying the law, following the legal process to come to America, and thank you for your hard work. However, that was then, and this is now, and it’s too bad you couldn’t have waited a few decades to take advantage of this.”

Those who support this bill, or support providing the reward of legal status in our nation to illegal aliens, will tell you stories of families that are scared to be deported. They’ll report about how they do the jobs that no American will do. However, they’ll totally ignore the fact that these people blatantly ignored American law in the first place.

I know why most people come to America. They come here for a better life, to prosper and to enjoy the fruits of capitalism and American democracy. Legal immigration is great and needs to be encouraged and made more efficient.

However, to reward someone who did not come here legally completely circumvents the purpose of having these laws.

I am concerned about all of this as a conservative, because this bill is being backed by some members of the Republican Party, including George W. Bush himself. Many key Bush appointees and supporters are verbally attacking other conservatives who are concerned and/or completely outraged at this bill. Among those attacking conservatives against this bill are Linda Chavez (former nominee for Secretary of Labor), Michael Chertoff (Secretary of Homeland Security), and George W. Bush himself.

Peggy Noonan asked an excellent question in a recent op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal.

Why would they speak so insultingly, with such hostility, of opponents who are concerned citizens? And often, though not exclusively, concerned conservatives?”

That is an excellent question. This is a question I do not know the answer to. However, this may actually signal the most significant shift in the Republican base in quite some time. Conservatives, who once rallied behind Bush, now feel that he has directly alienated the wishes of his core base of supporters.

This is causing a severe fracture amongst conservatives, Republican and Independents alike. Some, who have staunchly supported President Bush, are not quite ready to give up on him. Then, there are those who believe that Bush is not listening or even caring about what those who have supported him to this point, despite all of the problems with the Iraq War that have alienated some moderate and anti-war conservatives.

Up until this point, I’ve supported the majority of President Bush‘s policy initiatives. I have believed for a long time that many in his cabinet and in the intelligence departments (people he trusted to give him good advice and the right information) provided bad or misguided advice to him, and this is part of the reason why the Iraq War has had it‘s problems. Facts have proven those thoughts to be, to varying degrees, correct. I believe that President Bush has done some good things to keep the economy strong during a wartime period, and that his tax cuts have helped more Americans than the media would like you to believe.

However, I also believe that on this immigration issue, President Bush pretty much stands alone.

He has shown a lot of initiative in getting this exact immigration bill formulated and passed. He has denounced the criticism of those who oppose this bill. Donations to the Republican National Committee are off 40% from where they should be, this is mainly due to dissatisfaction with this proposed legislation and Bush’s criticism of those who oppose it.

In a recent Rasmussen Reports poll, only 16% of Americans believe this bill will reduce illegal immigration, which is supposed to be the point of this whole piece of legislation. Only 26% of those polled actually support the poll. 74% believed that this bill would do nothing to help eliminate illegal immigration, and 41% believed that illegal immigration would increase under this bill.

The Iraq War has more support and more optimism amongst Americans than this proposed piece of legislation.

The Democrats have been noticeably quiet during the heated debate about this bill. Even in the June 3rd Democratic Party debate on CNN, there was a question posed to the candidates about the immigration bill, and while the candidates gave their thoughts on the bill (most agreed with it to some extent), it was not dwelled upon too heavily.

This is a smart move by the Democrats. They’re letting the GOP tear itself apart over this issue, which helps to ensure victories in the 2007 and 2008 elections for the Democrats. To some writers, pundits, and analysts, this is the culmination of 4 years of self-destruction by the Republican Party, and this will lead to a 20 year dominance by the Democrats in our government.

However, I see it differently. I see this as the majority of Republicans are regrouping and reforming the party’s stances. They’re not going to stand for compromises that compromise national security and reward breaking the law. I wrote a few weeks ago that the GOP was in the process of refocusing itself as a party, and that refocusing is taking place amongst politicians and voters alike.

Maybe that’s why we’re seeing conservatives floating towards candidates like Fred Thompson, who are seen as conservatives without leaning too far right or too close to the center to represent the majority of the GOP base, as well as be attractive to independents and swing voters.

Nonetheless, it should be noted that most Americans don’t have confidence in this immigration bill. Sometimes, both Congress and the White House have to do things that are unpopular with the general population, because it’s what is good for our nation. However, in this case, I cannot see where this bill will do much good for the illegal immigration problem. In fact, you can read the bill yourself here.

I’ll let you make your own conclusions on this piece of legislation. Hopefully, you’ll see the reasons why the American public, Democrats and Republicans alike, are largely against this bill.

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