Thursday, January 30, 2014
Republicans are again at war with themselves over immigration reform. Ideally, they would agree on the need to legalize millions of illegal immigrants now here and to better control the number of future unskilled foreigners competing with our struggling working class.
Unfortunately, neither the Republican Party's leadership nor its conservative opposition is entirely with the program. The conservative base doesn't want to legalize, and the leadership wants a generous supply of cheap labor.
Seeing this rift, some Republican strategists advise simply avoiding the conversation altogether. One of them, Bill Kristol, holds that with midterm elections coming, the smart politics for Republicans is to bang on Obamacare rather than get into an intraparty fight over immigration.
One could counter-argue that letting immigration reform fester would not be politically wise, given the growing clout of Latino voters. Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans wanting to repeal the Affordable Care Act has fallen to 34, according to a recent CBS poll. This number will probably go far lower by Election Day as the dust settles and the public becomes familiar with Obamacare's benefits.
As for immigration reform, the conservative base is justified in casting a wary eye at the GOP leadership's intentions. The leaders' business allies, notably the Chamber of Commerce, want low wages. If they can get them through illegal immigration, fine. But if they can suppress pay through big guest-worker programs, also fine. Numbers matter, and the more low-skilled workers, legal or otherwise, the lower the wages.
So the conservative base should keep a watchful eye. When Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., warns against "a larger flow of immigration that threatens the financial future of middle-class Americans," he has a point -- though mass immigration by low-skilled workers threatens mainly poorer Americans.
These conservatives also worry that granting any kind of legal status would encourage more illegal immigration. But the status quo is what most fosters illegal immigration.
Jobs are the magnet for the vast majority of undocumented workers. The bipartisan Senate proposal for reform would go far in closing down the U.S. labor market to those without papers. For example, it would (finally) require fraud-proof biometric ID for all job applicants. And it would seriously punish employers who break the law.
Amnesty for otherwise law-abiding illegal entrants is the political price of restoring order in the immigration program. Conservatives should accept it and drop the charge that "they" broke U.S. law. It's true -- they did -- but this was a law that the American government held in contempt.
And there are moral considerations. Many illegal immigrants have become virtual Americans, settled in their neighborhoods and key employees for local businesses. Their children are more often than not culturally American.
With logic on reform's side, Kristol must turn to an emotional standard from the right's political playlist: "President Obama obviously can't be trusted."
That's an odd accusation, in that Obama has been the only president in recent memory to enforce the weak law we now have. Obama's administration has deported 2 million illegal immigrants, a record for any president. Immigration activists urged him to announce an end to deportations in the State of the Union address. He did not.
The conservative base already knows that it's at odds with some of the party's business interests. Perhaps it should take a giant leap and admit to some shared concerns with labor unions -- and many Hispanics, who want the same job and wage security that they do.
Anyhow, there are things besides politics. Like governing. After the midterms, the politicos will be gearing up for the 2016 presidentials, and then after that, another midterm.
So how about solving a problem now and then?
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM
See Other Political Commentary.
See Other Commentaries by Froma Harrop.
Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports. Comments about this content should be directed to the author or syndicate.
Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.
We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.
Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $4.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.
To learn more about our methodology, click here.