Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gingrich and Immigration

Thomas Sowell

Now that Newt Gingrich has become the latest in a series of Republican front-runners, he is getting the kinds of scrutiny and attacks that have done in other front-runners.

One of the issues that have aroused concern among conservative Republicans is that of amnesty for illegal immigrants, especially after Gingrich said that it would not be "humane" to deport someone who has been living and working here for years.

Let's go back to square one. The purpose of American immigration laws and policies is not to be either humane or inhumane to illegal immigrants. The purpose of immigration laws and policies is to serve the national interest of this country.

There is no inherent right to come live in the United States, in disregard of whether the American people want you here. Nor does the passage of time confer any such right retroactively.

The usually sober and thoughtful Wall Street Journal, on issues other than immigration, outdoes Newt Gingrich's claim that it would not be "humane" to deport illegal immigrants who have been living here a long time. A Wall Street Journal editorial says that it would be "psychotic" to do so.

"No one honestly believes the government should or will mount a nationwide manhunt to deport millions of people," according to the Wall Street Journal.

What we have today is virtually the opposite of that. Cities that openly proclaim themselves "sanctuaries" for illegal immigrants put their own policemen under strict orders not to report illegal immigrants to the federal authorities, with the result that illegal immigrants who have committed crime after crime are free to stay here and commit more crimes, including murder.

You don't have to launch a "manhunt" when a known criminal is also a known illegal alien. What many local policies have done has been to virtually put illegal aliens in a witness protection program.

The more doctrinaire libertarians see the benefits of free international trade in goods, and extend the same reasoning to free international movement of people. But goods do not bring a culture with them. Nor do they give birth to other goods to perpetuate that culture.

Why do people want to come to America in the first place? Because America offers them something that their native countries do not. This country has a culture which has produced a higher standard of living and a freer life than in many other countries.

When you import people, you import cultures, including cultures that have been far less successful in providing decent lives and decent livelihoods. The American people have a right to decide for themselves whether they want unlimited imports of cultures from other countries.

At one time, immigrants came to America to become Americans. Today, the apostles of multiculturalism and grievance-mongering have done their best to keep foreigners foreign and, if possible, feeling aggrieved. Our own schools and colleges teach grievances.

European countries have learned the hard way how massive imports of a foreign culture can undermine your own culture, polarize your population and create internal dangers that are irreversible. Victor Davis Hanson's chilling and insightful book "Mexifornia" shows similar patterns in California.

Moreover, in an age of terrorism, everyone who comes across the border from Mexico is not Mexican. It is the height of irresponsibility to leave that border open and the people who cross it a protected group. Punishing employers who hire illegals is punishing an accessory to an illegal act more harshly than the one who committed the illegal act in the first place.

As for Newt Gingrich, his position on immigration is just one of the items in the "baggage" he has to overcome. But what the voters have to overcome is an insistence on a perfect candidate. Ronald Reagan, after all, supported an immigrant amnesty bill, but that did not prevent him from being a great president otherwise.

A Republican Congress would be unlikely to make that mistake again, even if a Republican president wanted to. The big question for 2012 is whether Republicans will win Congress and/or the White House. If Democrats win Congress and the White House in 2012, amnesty is virtually certain, along with other disasters.


Romney's Immigration Dodge Precludes Possibility of Reconciling Policy With Reality

"I don't believe in amnesty," Mitt Romney said in 2006, but "I don't believe in rounding up 11 million people and forcing them at gunpoint from our country." Although Romney is loath to admit it, the underlying reality remains the same.

While mass deportation of everyone illegally residing in the United States is unacceptable for both practical and humanitarian reasons, Republicans are afraid to suggest an alternative, lest it be tagged with the a- word. Last week, Romney's campaign highlighted that danger by pouncing on Newt Gingrich for taking essentially the same position that Romney himself has repeatedly enunciated.

During last week's Republican presidential debate, Gingrich suggested appointing local review boards to decide which illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay. "If you've been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you've been paying taxes and obeying the law, (and) you belong to a local church, I don't think we're going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out," he said. "I'm prepared to take the heat for saying, 'Let's be humane.'"

Unlike many other self-aggrandizing pronouncements by the former House speaker, that one, sadly, had an element of truth, as Romney's campaign promptly proved. "Newt Gingrich made it very clear he was for amnesty," Romney's spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, told reporters after the debate.

Yet back in 2006, when he was governor of Massachusetts, Romney said, "Those that are here paying taxes and not taking government benefits should begin a process toward application for citizenship, as they would from their home country." During his campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, he criticized the 2007 immigration reform bill, co-sponsored by his rival, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., saying, "People should have no advantage by having come here illegally." But he continued to support the general idea of letting illegal immigrants apply for citizenship or legal residency -- a policy that the Romney of 2011 presumably would condemn as "amnesty."

We can't say for sure, because he refuses to address the issue. After the debate, The Examiner's Philip Klein repeatedly pressed Fehrnstrom to say how Romney would handle the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States. Fehrnstrom would go no further than declaring that Romney "would not grant them amnesty," uttering that phrase or variations on it no fewer than five times.

This dodge precludes the possibility of reconciling U.S. policy with the reality that, as Gingrich put it in 2006, "millions of illegal immigrants are here because Americans are hiring them. They have jobs in your neighborhood, and you know it."

Romney knows it as well as anyone else. In 2006, he was embarrassed by the revelation that undocumented landscapers hired by a contractor were working at his home in Belmont, Mass. As Gingrich pointed out (regarding illegal immigrants in general), "Keeping these hardworking people illegal makes them vulnerable to criminals and keeps them from playing responsible roles in our communities."

Romney's chief complaint about the 2007 immigration bill, which aimed to bring these people in from the shadows, was that it would have let illegal immigrants "jump ahead of the line" to become permanent residents (after eight years) or citizens (after 13). He made a similar point at a debate last September. "We've got 4.7 million people waiting in line legally," he said. "Let those people come in first."

But if the U.S. government were prepared to let eager workers connect with desperate employers, 4.7 million people would not be "waiting in line." And if that line moved at a reasonable pace, 12 million people would not be living here illegally.

At last week's debate, there was general agreement that it should be easier for high-skilled foreign nationals to take jobs in the United States. The same thing is glaringly true for people who work on farms, in restaurants and in politicians' yards. Just don't call it amnesty.


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