In his recent debate appearance in Iowa Newt Gingrich made the risky move of laying out a proposal for immigration reform that tries to walk a fine line between strict enforcement and amnesty for illegal aliens. Naturally, this proposal has generated a great deal of heated discussion on the issue.
First, let me begin by saying that I am a firm believer in securing our borders and enforcing the law when it comes to illegal immigration. Before anyone accuses me of being anti-immigrant however, they should know that my wife and two oldest children are immigrants who went through the legal process to come here. We went through a long, difficult and expensive process to abide by our nation’s immigration laws. While I am in favor of changing those laws to make the process less burdensome, I believe everyone who comes here should abide by the laws that are on the books. I am not anti-immigrant, I am anti-illegal immigration. There is a difference.
We conservatives have long held the position that the illegal immigration can be controlled through tightening border security and by taking away the economic incentives that act as magnets to draw illegals into the country, and our current economic crisis has gone a long way to prove our point. With
’s unemployment at a lower rate than our own, the flow of illegals coming across our southern border has all but dried up and traffic heading south has reduced the number of illegals estimated to live in the country significantly. Mexico
Those who are opposed to enforcing our immigration laws have been very effective in hammering us with the “cruel and heartless” label, accusing conservatives of wanting to tear families apart. They often point to examples of illegal immigrants who are living here for years as productive members of local communities who would be forced to uproot their families and leave the country. The truth is that while none of us are interested in creating undue hardships for these families, we see the necessity of controlling our borders and the importance of the rule of law. The conservative position is logically correct, but those who are driven more by emotion than logic will never be persuaded by our arguments.
What Newt has managed to do is to present a plan which epitomizes the spirit of genuine compromise, resolving the important issues without sacrificing the principles of either side. While I can see some points that are still lacking, I believe his plan is one that is worth considering.
If you take the time to actually read the specifics of his proposal, you will see that the first item on his agenda will be to secure the border. I firmly believe that until the border is secure, no other movement should be made to deal with those who are already in the country, and Newt’s plan reflects that same belief. He makes the point that controlling the border is not an impossible task and that we have the manpower and resources to accomplish that goal. All we are lacking now is the will to do so.
Once the border is secure, Newt proposes that we create a path to legality for those who have been here for a long period of time and who have put down roots in a community. I like this approach for a number of reasons.
One, it addresses the emotional issues that I discussed earlier without providing those who came here illegally with a path to citizenship. This is important because it is not a reward for bad behavior, it does not put illegals at the head of the line in front of those who came here the right way, nor does it instantly provide the Democrats with millions of new voters.
Second, it allows us to humanely deal with these families without creating a magnet that will draw new illegal immigrants across the border. Since only long term residents are eligible for the program, there is simply no new incentive to come. Those who have recently entered the country will be deported, which will be an improvement over the current “catch and release” program currently in place.
The third aspect of this plan that appeals to me is that local communities will be in charge of determining which applicants will be allowed to stay, rather than giving that power to a faceless
bureaucracy. Obviously, there will be appropriate federal guidelines to be followed, but each case will be reviewed on a local level and the ultimate determination will be made by those who are most affected by the decision. Washington
This plan does not however, bestow amnesty. Instead there is acknowledgement that the person’s presence in this country is due to an illegal act by virtue of the fact that they are not afforded the path to citizenship that is available to those who followed the rules in coming here. Additionally, the plan imposes a fine of at least five-thousand dollars per person.
There are, as I said earlier, a couple of things that are lacking that I would like to see addressed. First, no mention is made of how we would deal with the fact that many of these people are almost certainly guilty of identity theft and tax evasion. Obviously we cannot simply ignore such issues and Newt will have to address this if he hopes to move forward with this idea.
Another thing that is not addressed is the “anchor baby” issue. As long as potential illegal immigrants know they can secure citizenship for their children simply by crossing the border prior to their birth, there will continue to be a strong incentive for them to come here.
From a political standpoint, Newt has taken a big risk but it may well pay off for him. Although he isn’t taking the hard line that most of us have long advocated, he has taken a position that will achieve our goals and still appeal to those who simply look at the humanitarian aspects. Additionally, I think this plan will appeal to the Hispanic community because it provides their best hope for coming out of the shadows in which they have been living.
All things being considered, I think Newt’s plan is one that will work to resolve an issue that should have been put to rest years ago.