Fleming To Boehner: You Might Want To Check With Us Before Committing To Bad Policy

Last night, Rep. John Fleming called out House Speaker John Boehner for statements he made about immigration in an ABC News interview

“I’m concerned that Speaker Boehner is getting ahead of House Republicans when he commits to getting a ‘comprehensive approach’ to immigration taken care of ‘once and for all.’ There’s been zero discussion of this issue within the conference, and I’m urging the Speaker to talk with House Republicans before making pledges on the national news. The first thing we need is for President Obama to finally enforce current immigration law and strengthen our borders. To take up any other agenda is bad policy for the American people and bad politics for Republicans. The Speaker needs to pull back on this issue and stop negotiating in public.

“I also am puzzled by the Speaker’s willingness to put new tax revenue on the table when the expiring Bush tax rates come before Congress. Let’s be clear, raising taxes during a very slow recovery is likely to lead to another recession, and it will do absolutely nothing to balance the budget. Washington does not tax too little, it spends way too much. I am concerned that the Speaker’s comments, while vague, are inferred by many as a willingness by Republicans to raise taxes; that would be a big mistake.

“The American people expect Washington to work hard at solving the problems that are mounting against our great country. It’s not a time for Republicans to resort to the politics of expediency, but to stay with the fundamental values that Americans expect. We need to stand strong on conservative principles, and work for solutions that let the free market stimulate true economic growth.”

The results of Tuesday’s election will likely make for many more controversies within the GOP, so this is merely an opening salvo.

But where immigration is concerned, it seems there is a mad scramble among some in the pundit class, and even among elected officials, to surrender in order to attempt to play in the Hispanic community. Even the normally-stout Charles Krauthammer has budged on the issue

“Hispanics [are] not an intrinsic, ethnic-affinity problem, it’s a policy problem.” Krauthammer said on Fox News. “I think Republicans can change their position, be a lot more open to actual amnesty with enforcement — amnesty, everything short of citizenship — and to make a bold change in their policy. Enforcement, and then immediately after a guarantee of amnesty. That would completely change anything. If you had a Rubio arguing that, it would completely upend all ethnic alignments.”

The best counter to that argument comes from someone explicitly not Republican – the Daily Caller’s token liberal Mickey Kaus

Maybe these people are convinced the larger GOP project can be saved simply by caving on just this one issue. That seems cracked.  The bulk of the Hispanic electorate appears to instinctively vote Democratic, and not just because of immigration. Maybe they can be wooed over to the Republican side over the course of decades. But by then there will be another wave of new, instinctively Democratic illegal immigrants (lured by the Boehner Amnesty) for Dems to appeal to. And the idea that the GOPs don’t have to change any of their other ideas if only they appease this one ethnic group (making up 10% of the electorate) is highly questionable, as David Frum has argued. … There were plenty of other reasons why Romney lost. (If he’d gotten McCain’s share of the Latino vote … he still would have lost.)

The larger point is that “Comprehensive Immigration Reform”–which is supposed to be a simultaneous combination of an amnesty plus enforcement measures–is a terrible idea. It’s a terrible idea if it helps the Republican Party win national elections or if it hurts them..** As with the 1986 “comprehensive” reform, we will get the amnesty but not the enforcement–after the ACLU and Chamber of Commerce are through undermining it in the courts, and the Obama Justice Department is through undermining it in practice.  The result will be (as in 1986) a new wave of illegal immigrants, largely unskilled, who will bid down the wages of the Americans and legal immigrants at the bottom of the labor market. These workers are the people most hurt by the big economic changes of the last few decades. If you want any American to be able to make a decent wage–even if they didn’t go to college–as long as they are willing to work full time, it’s a disaster. And even in the most optimistic scenario such an influx would test our country’s already depleted powers of assimilation.

This same argument is playing out at National Review, after a Wall Street Journal editorial which said that a switch on immigration could crack open the Democrat’s Hispanic vote vault…

Immigrants should be a natural GOP constituency. Newcomers to the U.S.—legal or illegal—tend to be aspiring people who believe in the dignity of work and self-sufficiency, and they are cultural conservatives. They are not the 47%.

Krauthammer echoed that

The only part of this that is even partially true regards Hispanics. They should be a natural Republican constituency: striving immigrant community, religious, Catholic, family-oriented, and socially conservative (on abortion, for example).

The principal reason they go Democratic is the issue of illegal immigrants. In securing the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney made the strategic error of (unnecessarily) going to the right of Rick Perry. Romney could never successfully tack back.

For the party in general, however, the problem is hardly structural. It requires but a single policy change: Border fence plus amnesty. Yes, amnesty. Use the word. Shock and awe — full legal normalization (just short of citizenship) in return for full border enforcement.

I’ve always been of the “enforcement first” school, with the subsequent promise of legalization. I still think it’s the better policy. But many Hispanics fear that there will be nothing beyond enforcement. So, promise amnesty right up front. Secure the border with guaranteed legalization to follow on the day the four border-state governors affirm that illegal immigration has slowed to a trickle.

But Heather MacDonald posted this response to the call for a GOP turnabout on immigration…

If Republicans want to change their stance on immigration, they should do so on the merits, not out of a belief that only immigration policy stands between them and a Republican Hispanic majority. It is not immigration policy that creates the strong bond between Hispanics and the Democratic party, but the core Democratic principles of a more generous safety net, strong government intervention in the economy, and progressive taxation. Hispanics will prove to be even more decisive in the victory of Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30, which raised upper-income taxes and the sales tax, than in the Obama election.

And California is the wave of the future. A March 2011 poll by Moore Information found that Republican economic policies were a stronger turn-off for Hispanic voters in California than Republican positions on illegal immigration. Twenty-nine percent of Hispanic voters were suspicious of the Republican party on class-warfare grounds — “it favors only the rich”; “Republicans are selfish and out for themselves”; “Republicans don’t represent the average person”– compared with 7 percent who objected to Republican immigration stances.

spoke last year with John Echeveste, founder of the oldest Latino marketing firm in southern California, about Hispanic politics. “What Republicans mean by ‘family values’ and what Hispanics mean are two completely different things,” he said. “We are a very compassionate people, we care about other people and understand that government has a role to play in helping people.”

And a strong reason for that support for big government is that so many Hispanics use government programs. U.S.-born Hispanic households in California use welfare programs at twice the rate of native-born non-Hispanic households. And that is because nearly one-quarter of all Hispanics are poor in California, compared to a little over one-tenth of non-Hispanics. Nearly seven in ten poor children in the state are Hispanic, and one in three Hispanic children is poor, compared to less than one in six non-Hispanic children. One can see that disparity in classrooms across the state, which are chock full of social workers and teachers’ aides trying to boost Hispanic educational performance.

The idea of the “social issues” Hispanic voter is also a mirage. A majority of Hispanics now support gay marriage, a Pew Research Center poll from last month found. The Hispanic out-of-wedlock birth rate is 53 percent, about twice that of whites.

And Andy McCarthy weighed in

Heather is clearly right. Anyone who has followed her work on this topic for years knows her sobering insights are based on extensive, on-the-ground research and careful analysis. The Journal, which often reflects the views of the Republican establishment, bases its immigration views on wishful thinking. And not just its immigration views. Today’s bromides about “aspiring people who believe in the dignity of work and self-sufficiency” are of a piece with the Journal’s similar soft-spot for the “Arab Spring” and Muslim outreach. These GOP fantasies are similarly based on the wishful thinking that Islamists are also “cultural conservatives” sure to forge freedom-embracing democracies when empowered in the Middle East and become model Americans when courted here — sure to assimilate seamlessly into our society rather than seek to change it fundamentally.

Falling in love with your own high-minded rhetoric is no substitute for clear-eyed examination that takes the world as it is, not as we would have it. In point of fact, Islamists, like many Hispanic political activists (think: La Raza), are statists. As I’ve detailed in The Grand Jihad and, more recently, Spring Fever, their thoroughgoing alliance with the American Left is ideologically based — it is not a product of insensitive messaging or “Islamophobia.” Islamists revile finance capitalism, favor redistributionist economic policies, and endorse nanny state regulatory suffocation as well as an ever-expanding welfare state. This is not because Leftists made inroads while conservatives idled. It is because — though this often seems unimaginable to theJournal — Islamists, like many Hispanic activists, are the vanguard of a different culture that they passionately believe is superior to the culture of individual liberty.

There is no single-issue quick-fix to the challenge of ushering them into the Republican coalition. Rather, there is a choice to be made: either convince them that they are wrong, meaning make the unapologetic case for liberty and limited government; or fundamentally change who you are, meaning accommodate their statism.

What to make of all this? For one thing, conservatives are going to need several months of internal discussion before coming up with an answer on immigration. Clearly the party will need to come up with some form of Hispanic outreach; the GOP convention in September contained a larger number of high-profile Hispanic speakers than ever – Marco Rubio, Susanna Martinez and Ted Cruz among them – and Mitt Romney’s performance with Hispanics was even worse than John McCain’s was.

But ultimately, the formulation of that outreach really doesn’t need to be all that elegant. The Texas GOP has been able to pull a significant segment of the Hispanic vote, and it’s the key to making Democrats uncompetitive in a state where whites are merely a plurality rather than a majority. And the man who has been the governor in Texas for a decade offered up a policy platform on immigration which has worked there.

It’s not difficult. First, secure the border, because border security is its own issue apart from immigration. Border security means protection from drug cartels or jihadists with a purloined nuke. Perry said a physical fence is a waste of money, but if a fence would make folks feel better it’s at least a better expenditure than advertising the availability of food stamps. He did say it’s necessary to hire more border patrol personnel, and with the troops coming home from Afghanistan we won’t have a shortage of qualified, talented candidates for those jobs.

And once the border is secured, then address the issue of the people who are here with some form of work visa solution. If you want to call that amnesty, you can – but if that’s not palatable to conservatives then the answer needs to be that current illegals should buy their way in. Fine them $10,000 apiece, or $15,000, for a five-year work visa. Their employers could pay the fine for them and take it out of their pay over time; or not.

10 million illegals paying $10,000 each equals $100 billion. That’s almost real money. Does it solve the immigration problem? No, but what it might do is stanch the flow of the remittances back to Mexico, which totaled $22.7 billion last year alone. If it takes five years to pay off the work visa/amnesty fines and the Mexican economy’s export-labor sector suffers as a result, so be it – it’s not like the Mexican government has been helpful at all, and we don’t owe them anything.

Would this plan attract a lot of Hispanic voters? Probably not, but at least it would be seen as an offer. Romney’s ideas on self-deportation might have helped him in the primary, but they didn’t accomplish much.

And besides, one of the two political parties needs to stand for the rule of law. Illegal immigration isn’t a capital crime, so what we’re really talking about here is what the punishment is. And a nice $10,000 fine in exchange for a work visa and the peace of mind to know you’re not going to be deported the next time you get pulled over should sound pretty good – if nothing else, that’s a low enough number that getting a loan for it shouldn’t be impossible.

But if $10,000 is too much, then we’ll negotiate a figure. Maybe the feds could offer a shorter-term visa for less; who knows? The point being that the same economic argument being used to promote legalization and taxation of marijuana ought to be applied to illegals; right now they’re a black market in labor, and the government doesn’t have the resources or will to stamp it out. So open that market and tax it. And by doing so, you’re giving a crash course in market economics to people who may or may not be receptive to a message of limited government.

None of that works until that government shows itself capable of controlling the border, though. Our problems with illegal immigration, regardless of the electoral outcome in the Hispanic community, will never go away until we can fulfill that basic governmental responsibility. And our political class, induced without doubt by the Democrats’ insistence on creating 10-12 million new bloc voters, hasn’t grasped that yet.



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