Ross Douthat on the GOP’s Immigration Delusion

Ross Douthat has a column today on the national debate about immigration reform. As is often the case, he’s exactly right about both the politics and the policy, particularly as it relates to the GOP. He writes:

THE debate over immigration reform, rekindled last week by House Republican leaders, bears a superficial resemblance to last fall’s debate over the government shutdown.

Again, you have establishment Republicans transparently eager to cut a deal with the White House and a populist wing that doesn’t want to let them do it. Again, you have Republican business groups and donors wringing their hands over the intransigence of the base, while talk-radio hosts and right-wing bloggers warn against an imminent inside-the-Beltway sellout. Again, you have a bill that could pass the House tomorrow — but only if John Boehner was willing to live with having mostly Democrats voting for it.

Except there’s one big difference: This time, the populists are right.

In politics, sometimes something is better than nothing. But when it comes to immigration reform, I suspect Douthat is right. For the near term, nothing is better than something. Read the rest here.


  • Chris Ryan

    My guiding scripture in the immigration debates is Deut. 10:17-19. While I do have some concerns abt the impact of immigration on unemployment, this is first & foremost a humanitarian issue. Hence, I don’t see how Christians can do anything other than grant amnesty at minimum, and preferably citizenship.

    I, too, hope we don’t see a political deal made now. And that’s b/cs I think as 2012 made evident, the Latino vote in this country is becoming ever more crucial. And I think by 2016 their vote will be determinative. Hence, by waiting I think we can get an immigration bill that not only ensures citizenship, but does so in less than the 10yrs Obama proposed, and doesn’t include the $60B so-called “Border Surge” that I think is frightfully irresponsible fiscally & portrays the US in a less than neighborly light.

    I think immigration reform–including citizenship–is a Biblical imperative. I’m horrified at the ‘water cooler’ talk in the cities I’ve lived in across the Midwest & South which frankly frames this debate in xenophobic terms. I certainly don’t think that you, Denny, are xenophobic, unfortunately a not insignificant segment of people who oppose immigration reform are; or at least those in the communities I’ve called home. If I hear one more person complain abt all the ‘taquerias’ sprouting up around town I very well may buy the whole office chimichangas for lunch 🙂

  • Curt Day

    So far, neither major party is looking for a comprehensive immigration plan. Because such a plan would include all of the causes for immigration include trade policies that put immigrants out of work in their own countries. Mentioning this is flatter and thus not what we want to hear, but it is a significant part of the picture.

  • James Stanton

    The likely play would be to agree to comprehensive immigration reform before the 2016 elections. It’s smarter in the short-term to wait till after the Republican primaries or after the mid-term elections. The base will be angry but they really have no one else for whom to vote. The Limbaughs of the world will rage but as long as most everyone in the US truly has a shot at upwards social mobility then the Republican party will always have a future offering a conservative approach to economics regardless of the demographics of the electorate.

    • Chris Ryan

      How do well do you think the GOP will perform in 2016 if it adopts such an opportunistic position? In the ’90s GOP Gov Pete Wilson led a hard line stance against illegal immigration. He led & cheerleaded a number of bills and propositions aimed at illegal immigrants. It was enormously popular with Californians at the time, but not 10yrs later as the Latino vote came to maturity they remembered Wilson’s snubs & they joined a coalition along with women & blacks that has cemented the Dem’s in Cali. Even the election of the first Hispanic Lt. Gov hasn’t swayed Latino distrust of the GOP there. It seems to me to be a risky proposition for the GOP.

      • James Stanton

        The GOP elites know they have to pass some kind of immigration reform to have a decent chance in 2016 and future elections. It’s a gamble but they seem to think they can play both sides of the fence. The media will play up the bipartisan nature of any reform bill but maybe you’re right and it’s already too late.

  • Paul Jacobs

    The term “reasonable compromise” is neither a compromise, nor is it reasonable. My sweet wife is an immigrant to this country. We have many relatives who would love to come here, but because we insist on doing things legally, they cannot! If you are educated, speak English, highly skilled, and a Christian, the immigration laws work against you. Currently there is a 23 year waiting list for my wife’s family to come here on anything but a visitor’s visa.

    People who come here and break our laws should never be rewarded with citizenship. Work out a way for them to stay by making them a permanent resident if you will, but citizenship – NO!

    • James Stanton

      I know many Christians that have immigrated here in recent years. I read your statements differently and they seem to imply that our immigration policies should favor those who speak English, are highly skilled, and are of course Christians. I think your claim that such are disadvantaged is without merit but would like to know how you came to that conclusion.

      This country was more or less established on a wave of mass “illegal” immigration so I’m not too concerned with the legalism argument. We can survive this just as we survived unskilled, often non-English speaking immigrants for the last 200 some years. The challenge is more of sound long-term economic policies and that we have not had in decades.

  • Paul Jacobs

    Illegals come across our borders daily. They are given driver’s license in some states, along with food stamps and welfare payments in others. If you apply to come here as a legal immigrant, depending on certain countries, the wait is years. My experience is based upon questions regarding Filipinos. They speak English. They are highly educated. There are restrictions on the number that can come in each year. Many are Christian.

    I do not mean to imply that they are not allowed to come here because they are Christians. I mean to imply that it does not help.

    As far as us being a nation extablished on waves of mass “illegal” immigration, I beg to differ. The original 13 colonies were founded legally. The mass immigration at the beginning of the 20th century were legal as there was mostly an open border policy. Mass illegal immigration is recently for the past 30 years or so.

    You do read me correctly that I do believe that our policies should benefit America regarding immigration. That means giving preference to those who already speak English, are educated, and have significant skills to offer so as not to be a burden on our social safety net.

    • Roy Fuller

      Persons who are in the United States illegally are not eligible for food stamps. Some may have driver’s licenses, but they have had to secure some type of false identification in order to secure a such a license. Of course, if persons who are here illegally have established a false identity, with an incorrect Social Security Number, they may use that identity to receive benefits, but your claim suggest that such persons receive benefits upon arrival. Not true, but widely believed.

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