Immigration gap column

The GOP split between
rhetoric and reality

By Brad Warthen
Editorial Page Editor
TUESDAY’S debate revealed a significant split in the Republican Party between Reality and Rhetoric, Ideas and Ideology.
    Sen. John McCain was asked a question that sounded like it had been dreamed up by Tom Clancy: Would he, in a totally “what-if” scenario, torture prisoners to prevent a theoretical terrorist attack?
    Sen. McCain, who has actually been tortured, for years on end, by a ruthless enemy, gave a thoughtful answer based on bitter experience: Knowing the United States would not do what the North Vietnamese were doing to him kept him going, kept him believing in his country and what it stood for. Besides, he didn’t want to give enemies an excuse to torture our troops.
    Rep. Tom Tancredo said he would call the fictional Jack Bauer. Others were no more realistic. Their answers had nothing to do with winning a war and everything to do with stirring the blood.
    Then there’s immigration.
    During the debate, Sen. McCain — again — spoke of his work on the issue that most candidates, and most members of Congress, would rather rant than do anything about.
    Two days later, he stood up with a bipartisan group of senators to announce a deal, months in the making, that represented the first attempt to address immigration comprehensively after a year of stalemate.
    Immediately, the Big GOP Split reasserted itself with a thunderous crack. South Carolina’s U.S. senators illustrated the split. Lindsey Graham — who had been late for the debate Tuesday because the White House had asked him to stay and help hammer out the agreement — hailed the proposal as “the last, best chance we have, probably for decades, to fix immigration.”
    Jim DeMint, sounding peeved at not having been in the room, was dismissive: “I don’t care how you try to spin it, this is amnesty.”
    He didn’t know yet what was in the bill, but he knew the magic word for condemning it.
    Sen. Graham had this to say about that: “Amnesty is a pardon and means all is forgiven. This legislation is not amnesty…. I hope all Senators, particularly those who were not part of the negotiations, will become more informed about the details of the bill before making incorrect statements. Here are the facts… . Illegal aliens will not be allowed to jump in line for citizenship ahead of those currently waiting. If they want to become citizens they must pay fines, learn English, pass a civics exam, undergo background checks and leave the United States and return to their country of origin. The punishment is fair and just. The public expects Members of Congress to speak their minds, but be informed in their opinions.”
    That’s too much trouble for some. I asked Rep. Tancredo Friday morning, when he called into a radio show I was on, whether this compromise wasn’t better than doing nothing. He was unequivocal: “Doing nothing is better.”
    I mentioned that to Sen. Graham Friday afternoon. “The Tancredo model never leads to a solution,” he said.
    “I have decided, as a United States senator, to stand on principle, and try to solve problems. And they’re not inconsistent. One of the principles that made America great is that the problem-solvers have always been greater in number and will than the demagogues.”
    He said, when a reporter asked, that he was not referring to Jim DeMint. “Jim is a very serious guy,” he said. But, he added, “one thing I would suggest is that before you enflame the public by using buzzwords, let’s look and see what we did.”
    Shortly after Sen. Graham said that, Sen. DeMint put out another release, complaining that the negotiators were trying to rush the bill through without letting him and others see whether they could go for it (which may very well be what they’re doing). He raised the “A-word” again, but in a somewhat more conciliatory way: “As we understand it, this plan will grant amnesty… This can be fixed, but it will take time and there is no way the Senate can responsibly complete this debate in one week.”
    On the presidential campaign trail, however, there was little appetite for closing gaps and getting things done. Mitt Romney wasn’t waiting around for details: “I strongly oppose today’s bill going through the Senate. It is the wrong approach.”
    Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s campaign put out a statement purporting to address the proposal that was, to say the least, oblique: “The recent Fort Dix plot is a stark reminder that the threat of terrorism has made immigration an important matter of national security. We need to know who is coming in and who is going out of this country if we are going to deal with those who are here illegally.”
    As Sen. McCain had said during the debate, the Fort Dix plotters didn’t all sneak into the country illegally. The issues are completely unrelated.
    I don’t know what to do about illegal immigration. I want to see the laws enforced. I also want the laws to recognize reality.
    In a different context, I asked former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee about the difference between being a governor and existing inside the Beltway: “You actually are going to have to do something” if you’re a governor, he said. “You don’t have the luxury of being an ideologue.”
    Some inside the Beltway want to do something, too. They’ve made a dramatic effort in that direction with this immigration bill. I don’t know whether it’s the way to go or not. But I suspect that the biggest barrier facing it will be Republicans who prefer to luxuriate in ideology.

28 thoughts on “Immigration gap column

  1. Sand Hill

    A couple things:
    1) Graham seems to say DeMint and others have no right to comment, becuase they don’t know whats in the bill. Yet, he won’t put the language out. It doesn’t seem right that only Graham gets the right to talk about this bill
    2) From media reports these Z-visas sound like they would allow illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S. indefinitely as long as they haven’t committed another felony. This puts them in line in front of the tens of millions of people trying to get in this country legally. Anything that gives the illegal immigrants the ability to stay here forever without going home and an advantage over the law abiders, is amnesty. Call that irrational ideology if you want, I believe that is a core principle of immigration law.
    3) I would ask Senator Graham, “Why do we need a bill so badly?” If we just enforced our border more agressively and continue the crackdown on employers that illegally employ (and in some cases take advantage of) those here illegally, the problem of the 12 million here would start to solve itself by attrition. At that point, the people hacked off about illegal immigration would be more amenable to a guest worker program because we’ve proved we can actually implement what we say the law is.

  2. Randy E

    Sand Hill is right, Graham was way out of line expecting DeMint to have read the proposal before commenting on it.
    “You actually are going to have to do something” if you’re a governor, he said. “You don’t have the luxury of being an ideologue.” – Huckabee Guess he hasn’t been in SC for the past 5 years.
    This plan doesn’t immediately allow the “A” word but it is not realisitc either. Does anyone believe these illegals making $5/hour are going to come out of the shadows to pull out their checkbook or cash in some stocks to pay the $5k? They are going to leave the country they worked so hard to infiltrate?
    Regardless, it’s better than oversimiplifying the issue with “buzz words”. Look what spouting demogoguery for the past 6 years has done for this country.

  3. SGM (ret.)

    The reality of our present circumstances is that the 12 million illegals now in the US will never be deported- period. Too much of our economy depends on their labor and its low costs. All the wishing in the world and climbing on high horses to demand that they will be won’t change a thing. The same pretty much applies to any serious penalties being applied to employers of these people and all for reasons too numerous to list here right now.
    So, this new legislation could go a long ways to bringing illegals into accountability, that is, be held accountable to follow laws, pay reasonable taxes for the services they use, be subject to deportation for breaking laws or being unemployed, etc.
    However, I’m guessing that it stands a pretty good chance of just winding up as so many pages of un-enforced law like most of its antecedents.
    As to the details, as I understand the procedures, the “guest worker” status is only good for two years at which time it must be renewed. The initial application along with the renewal costs $500 each (total of $1000 over a 4 year period). An application for permanent residency must be made while in the immigrant’s home country (i.e. the immigrant must physically depart the US) and will be subject to a cost of $4000. Even this permanent residency won’t be “permanent” in the strict legal sense.
    The total cost is therefore $5000, a pretty hefty “fine” any way you cut it. That to me doesn’t sound like “amnesty” in the strictest sense. In the end, the former “illegal” still won’t be a US citizen, just a legal foreign resident. But again, I’m pretty skeptical as to whether any of this will ever be enforced.
    The issue of the border fence is another aspect of the new law that I’ll have to see implemented to believe.
    All in all, it could create a situation that’s much, much better that the one we presently find ourselves in, but I have my doubts.

  4. Brad Warthen

    Graham said something that I would have used in the piece, but I missed part of it, and didn’t have time to go back and find it on the recording before I had to have the column done.
    It was something like, we couldn’t get several thousand people out of New Orleans when we knew where they were and they wanted to leave. How are we going to get 12 million people who want to stay out of the country?
    Of course, while some fantasize about rounding up illegals, Tancredo’s not saying that. He says get after the employers, and that will dry up the jobs, and they’ll go home.
    That’s still an enormous task that would take tremendous resources and still probably be too difficult to accomplish.
    Here’s an interesting point: People say those same things about public schools, and about our involvement in Iraq. Too hard, too expensive, probably fail anyway, let’s get out. I happen to believe that the schools and Iraq are worth the trouble. In fact, I don’t think we have any choice other than to succeed in those areas, and to keep trying until we do.
    I don’t think that about immigration. What I think is that we need to adjust our laws to fit the economic reality. This is one area where I think the market types are right: Government shouldn’t try to swim against the tide of the marketplace.
    We should adjust our quotas and immigration pipelines so that people who are clamoring for jobs, and employers are clamoring for them as workers, can get here legally and we can have them in the system.
    I’m able to say that because I don’t think it’s so terrible to have all these poor Mexicans in our country. I don’t think this is a genie we have to put back in the bottle. Other people think it’s the worst thing in the world, and that’s where we differ.
    There’s a similar dynamic at work in the war on drugs, only I’m in the camp of those who think drugs are terrible enough that we should fight that war. Others take the position that I do on immigration.
    It all depends on your priorities, and which battles you think are worth fighting.

  5. Sand Hill

    No one who is serious believes we will deport all 12 million. Advocates of amnesty say opponents of amnesty believe that, but its a straw man. This bill is not total and complete amnesty, but its still bad policy to give illegal immigrants an advantage over those who have been waiting for years to get into this country.
    We have had some success these past 12 months stepping up workplace enforcement. That alone has the effect of sending the message that we aren’t going to be tolerant of people who are breaking our laws.
    I think we need to keep that up and do more border enforcement, before we consider what to do with the 12 million.

  6. Mark Whittington

    It’s not just about ideology-it’s also about corporate money awash in the political system. It’s about all of our institutions (including the corporate media) selling out the American people. It’s about the Chamber of Commerce anywhere USA stabbing American workers in the back for cheap labor. It’s about corporate funded and beholden politicians doing the bidding of their corporate masters despite the will of the vast majority of the American people. It’s about your local newspaper editor rehashing Chamber of Commerce talking points on the editorial page, day after day, week after week.
    DeMint is one of the worst politicians imaginable, yet even he can see the opposition among the people to the illegal mass migration that has taken place. His pro-job outsourcing, pro-job killing free trade agreement mentality has done real damage to most Americans. When you couple that with his regressive taxation, anti labor, misanthropic political philosophy then you end up with the makings for a depression. Even worse, when you couple the above with the most incompetent, corrupt administration in US history, then you are talking about a recipe for disaster. DeMint is hypocritical for even mentioning illegal immigration because he has done everything possible to create the economic conditions that facilitate the illegal mass migration.
    We need publicly financed elections in order to get the Bush and DeMint types out of the political system. There are plenty of rotten Democrats that also need to hit the road, and publicly financed elections would go a long way to sending this crowd packing.

  7. bud

    People say those same things about public schools, and about our ‘involvement in Iraq’. Too hard, too expensive, probably fail anyway, let’s get out. I happen to believe that the schools and Iraq are worth the trouble. In fact, I don’t think we have any choice other than to succeed in those areas, and to keep trying until we do.
    Brad, you’re not doing ANYTHING that would qualify you to say it’s “worth the trouble” when it comes to Iraq. Until you actually do something, anything, you need to just shut up about it.

  8. Ready to Hurl

    There is no “probability” concerning our failure in Iraq. Brad (and the other deluded) refuse to recognize that Bush and the neo-cons already failed.
    They failed to level with the American people. They predicted that Iraqi oil would pay for the occupation. They claimed that the occupation would be short. They fantasized that a society under the iron heel of a brutal secret police for several generations would magically transform into a tolerant multi-ethnic democracy. They ignored the obvious sectarian hatreds– simmering for a millennium.
    Had Bush and the neo-cons leveled with the American people about the financial costs, the human toll, and the duration of their crusade for Middle Eastern democracy (and secure oil) then more than 28% of Americans might support them. More likely, as Bush and the neo-cons knew very well, the American people would have rejected invading Iraq had the true costs and motivations been known.
    Whether we pull out in 90 days or a decade, the result will be the same: violent chaos terminated by the ascent of one or more dictators.
    The only difference will be how many American tax dollars and American lives will be wasted in the interim.

  9. Jeff M

    People say illegals should not be given an “advantage” over those attempting to enter legally. I agree with that statement, but I wouldn’t call the Z-visa status an “advantage”. It is effectively a third status below citizenship and below legal permanent residence, with pretty serious requirements and restrictions (and no access to federal welfare programs, as I understand it).
    It is true illegals shouldn’t be given an “advantage”. But they should be given and incentive to come forward out of the shadows. Those whose true desire is just to work hard and make a life for themselves are exactly the ones who will respond to that incentive. Then the authorities will be unburdened and more able to enforce the laws agains those who refuse to come forward. When those who try to stay in the shadows are found, they will be without excuse and without sympathy from the public.
    I’m with Lindsey on this one.

  10. Rick A

    Why should latinos be given more of an advantage to immigrate to the USA than the citizens of nations that do not share a border or close proximity to the USA?
    Why should business be allowed CHEAP LABOR while sticking the American taxpayers with the bills for public education, medical, translations in courts and hospitals, housing in correctional facilities…?
    Remember that the top 20% of income earners pay 80% of the income taxes in America. Why should these Americans pay the bills for these illegals?
    If your feel that illegals should be GIVEN A CHANCE…maybe you aren’t paying their bills.

  11. Sand Hill

    Would residents of other countries qualify for a Z-visa? If not, then they are at a disadvantage to illegal aliens. Your point about no access to federal benefits sounds good, but thats the first I’ve heard of it. I doubt Sen. Kennedy would sign off on that, but I’d be happy for you to prove me wrong.
    Our law enforcement isn’t really doing anything to go after illegal aliens that aren’t breaking other laws, so I don’t see a sense of urgency to adjust their status. Whether or not they have a Z-visa makes no difference to how hard law enforcement has to work.
    In 2006, authorities deported 195,000 illegal aliens (
    I’ve also been reading about the joint operations they’ve done with the FBI to catch businesses that are helping the illegal aliens counterfeit Social Security and other information.
    We just need to keep sending the message that we are going to enforce our laws, and then increase our legal quotas like Brad said because we do need a higher level of legal immigration.

  12. Mike Cakora

    Jeff M:
    Columnist Mark Steyn argues that living in the shadows may be a good deal.

    Mark, I always thought the requirement in last year’s bill was pretty sweet: You had to pay two out of three years’ back taxes. Most legal Americans would love that deal: Pay any two years of tax and we’ll give you the third for free!
    But the President obviously concluded that even this was insufficiently appealing. Which gets to the heart of the problem. Whenever folks use this “living in the shadows” line, they assume that these 12-20-30 million people all have a burning desire to move out of the shadows and live under the klieg lights of officialdom. But, in fact, if you wanted to construct the perfect arrangement for modern life, it would be to acquire:
    a) just enough of an official identity to be able to function – open bank accounts, etc – and to access free education and health care; but
    b) not enough of an official identity to attract the attentions of the IRS and the other less bountiful agencies of the state.
    The present “undocumented” network structures provide this. For these Z visas to “work” (in Washington terms), they have to be attractive enough to draw sufficient numbers out of “the shadows”. Right now, “living in the shadows” is a pretty good deal. Somerset Maugham famously called Monte Carlo a sunny place full of shady people. Undocumented America is a shady place full of sunny people.
    Instead of attempting to draw the undocumented out of the shadows, it might be fairer to allow the rest of us to “live in the shadows”, too. My suggestion is that, on the day this bill comes into effect, all300 million US citizens and legal residents should apply for a Z visa.

    Steyn, BTW, is a furriner.

  13. Doug Ross

    Here’s another aspect of Bush’s immigration bill:
    White House spokesman Scott Stanzel, asked in a telephone interview yesterday to clarify Chertoff’s remark, said it referred only to future taxes.
    “It is important that the reformed immigration system is workable and cost efficient,” Stanzel said. “Determining the past tax liability would have been very difficult and costly and extremely time consuming.”
    Illegal immigrants are not responsible for paying any taxes on money earned in the past. Where can I get the same deal?
    Lindsey Graham is a suck-up to the White House. He’s as pure a political character as we’ve ever had in this state. Brad loves him.

  14. Mike Cakora

    Brad –
    Here’s my take.. I take issue — politely, but firmly and with a dash of humor — with your contention that immigration and terrorism
    issues are completely unrelated. I went so far as to cite at my blog a union leader, favorably!
    I have to give the border patrol agents’ union its due.
    That’s what this debate has reduced us to: aligning with our political enemies for the greater good of the parentland.

  15. Ed Baxley

    The reason Graham and Bush have no crediability on this issue is that both the congress and the white house have lied to us for years, regardless of party. Remember the amnesty of 25 years ago? “Let us pardon these 1.5 million people who are here illegally and we will enforce the border and it won’t happen again”. It ranks right up there with “i’ll still respect you in the morning”. Dump Lindsey!

  16. Brad Warthen

    "Parentland?" Mike, I’m surprised at you? Which is it, a Rodina or a Vaterland? Myself, I think it has no gender because it isn’t anthropomorphized. Our nation is about a set of republican ideas, not some nationalized, hereditary identity.

    We owe our sense of national direction to  English (more or less) ideas, not English blood or language.

    Although it is a pretty cool language.

  17. Mike Cakora

    Brad –
    Ich kann Deutsch und ya magu govorit poruski. Or at least could some time ago. I served Vespucciland as a Russian-language signals intelligence weenie in Germany mnoga let tomu nazad in Deutschland after having studied German in high school and college, supplemented by a year learning Russian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA.
    I still have pain from the wounds and trauma I suffered crawling Berlin’s cobblestone streets at dawn’s early light. I worked here, the Devil’s Mountain, perhaps the world’s largest phallic symbol. (Scroll down for the three towers that support my assertion.)
    I purposefully split the difference between the fatherland and motherland because I am a sensitive new age guy. Heck, even the Russkies are confusing with their “great war for the fatherland” and “Mother Russia.” I thought about “brotherland” and “sisterland,” but did not want to offend folks based on race or sexual orientation.
    So what’s better, “parentland” or “Vespucciland”?

  18. LexWolf

    For anyone who wants to see the obvious problem with this bill, all we need to do is look at Ted Kennedy’s statements about the three immigration bills he’s been involved with as a senator:
    Ted Kennedy on Immigration [Mark Krikorian]
    1965: “The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs.”
    1986: “This amnesty will give citizenship to only 1.1 to 1.3 million illegal aliens. We will secure the borders henceforth. We will never again bring forward another amnesty bill like this.”
    2007: “Now it is time for action. 2007 is the year we must fix our broken system.”

    Obviously the guy has no clue what he’s talking about and has been dead wrong about every single point above yet we are supposed to trust his latest handiwork? What fools does he think we are?

  19. Carson

    The thing that concerns me about any sort of immigration law reform is that every few years they re-invent the same laws. Each time they work in amnesty and gravy parts for the illegal aliens. They are always quick to hand out the amnesty and gravy parts but they never do get around to the enforcement parts of the laws.
    Do they really need a shiny new set of laws when they have never given the old comprehensive laws a test drive?
    Notices of intent to fine employers:
    1997: 865
    1999: 417
    2000: 178
    2001: 100
    2003: 162
    2004: 3
    Worksite arrests of illegal alien workers:
    1997: 17,554
    1999: 2,849
    2000: 953
    2001: 735
    2003: 445
    2004: 159

  20. Mike Cakora

    I was of course being cute with “parentland.” As my blog announces, I recognize the Anglosphere as the key to individualism, rule of law, honoring contracts and covenants, and the elevation of freedom to the first rank of political and cultural values.
    Perhaps I should emphasize these core values more than I have. I should note that I prefer German and Czech beer to most of what’s produced in the UK, but do enjoy Guinness (“A pork chop in every glass”) and Harp. Call me “Anglospheric with a hoppsian dilemma” if you like.

  21. LexWolf

    Mike Cakora,
    Mark Steyn is dead on right, as usual. He’s absolutely nailed the many flaws in this execrable bill.
    (1) do you really think that $5,000 won’t be nickled and dimed down to next to nothing over the next year or two? Here you’re already whining that those “poor” people can’t afford it even while they send $100s and $1,000s back home. By the way, you’re way off on the demographics of illegals. A very large portion of them are actually professionals and skilled workers who make far more than $5/hr. Oh, and what do you say to my friend who’s spent almost 6 years and over $10,000 to get a legal visa? What will you do for him?
    (2) how do these “poor” illegal invaders from Mexico (your stereotypical assumption) ever make it here in the first place, given that they have to pay a grand or three to coyotes to get them over the Rio Grande? If they can round up that sort of cash on their meager south-of-the-border incomes I’m sure they could find $5,000 here, especially since they have several years to do so.

  22. Skippy

    Wake up – corporate America has already won on this issue – go use an ATM – first question English or Spanish? Go to Lowes or any other large chain – notice all signs are in both English and Spanish – call any 800 support number again the first question is do you want you call answered in English or Spanish – face the facts in 40 years or less this country will be speaking Spanish and be dominated by those south of the current boarder –

  23. Mike Cakora

    The Corner at National Review Online has this email from someone who’s dealt with an amnesty provision in current immigration law; it should put into context the Senate bill’s promise that illegals will pay a fine:

    As some of you know, my illegal alien brother-in-law (who could have been petitioned legally by my naturalized U.S. citizen wife, but entered the U.S. illegally anyway) applied for legalization in 2001 via the 245(i) provision which “requires” the payment of a $1,000 fine.
    I was the one who filed on behalf of my wife for my brother-in-law under the 245(i) provision. In my telephone correspondence with the then INS in getting the proper instructions on how to proceed, I asked when and where the $1,000 fine would have to be paid. I was told that there were no specifics on that issue, but it would probably have to be paid when my brother-in-law received his visa in approximately eight years from the time that his notice of action [essentially a receipt— MK] was received in 2001 (it turns out now to be 13 years — 7 more years to go). [snip]
    As it turns out, there are absolutely no specifics on how and where the fine has to be paid. Recently I checked on the status of my brother-in-law by phoning the USCIS. His application was approved but has not yet been transferred to the NVC (National Visa Center). In the telephone conversation, I asked when the fine had to be paid. I was told that there was nothing in my brother-in-law’s record about paying any fine.
    If history is any indicator, the $5,000 amnesty fine will never happen.

    I disagree with the last sentence. The good news will be that Democrats will finally approve a voucher bill; the bad news it will be for vouchers to pay the immigration fines.
    The fines are not a really big deal to me; what is a big deal is the bill’s backers’ refusal to go through hearings on this whole mess so that we can understand it.

  24. Jeff M

    Sand Hill,
    I know this only addresses one of the several points you made, but…
    The following is from a document that appears on Senator Graham’s web page:
    8. MYTH: Illegal immigrants will come out of the shadows and on to the welfare rolls.
    • FACT: Z visa workers are not entitled to welfare, Food Stamps, SSI, non-emergency Medicaid, or other
    programs and privileges enjoyed by U.S. citizens and some Legal Permanent Residents.
    • FACT: In order to apply for and maintain Z visa status, workers must remain employed.

  25. Sand Hill

    An unsigned political document from Graham’s personal website doesn’t carry a lot of weight with me. He voted for SS benefits for illegals last year.

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