16 May 2006

Immigration Dividing the Right

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Differences among conservatives nationally on the Immigration issue are beginning to produce a genuine rift. We can see the impact of these tensions today on the right-side of the Blogosphere, where late last night Lori Byrd, a popular guest blogger on Polipundit, informed readers at her own site:

I received a lengthy email from Polipundit tonight alerting us to an editorial policy change that included the following: “From now on, every blogger at PoliPundit.com will either agree with me completely on the immigration issue, or not blog at PoliPundit.com.” I would provide additional context, but Polipundit has asked that the contents of our emails not be disclosed publicly and I think that is a fair request. There has been plenty written in the posts over the past week alone to let readers figure out what happened. Polipundit ended a later email with this: “It’s over. The group-blogging experiment was nice while it lasted, but we have different priorities now. It’s time to go our own separate ways.”

And Polipundit replied:

The blog has focused on various issues, but one issue on which I cannot give in to the elites is illegal immigration. On that, this blog’s position must be clear, not ambivalent. As a legal immigrant, I feel very, very, strongly about this. Back in 2004, I nearly withdrew my support for Bush’s re-election when he came out with his suicidal immigration “reform” plan.

So far, I’ve allowed the guest bloggers here to write pretty much what they pleased about all issues, including illegal immigration.

But on the illegal immigration issue, I now find myself having to contend with at least three out of four guest bloggers who will reflexively try to poke holes in any argument I make.

Suppose three out of four columnists at the Old York Times were pro-Republican. You can bet publisher “Pinch” Sulzberger would do something about that right quick.

Suppose a Bush administration official came out openly against amnesty. The Bushies would show him the door.

Similarly, the writers at PoliPundit.com need to respect the editorial position of PoliPundit.com on the most important issue to this blog, as the “publisher” sees it – illegal immigration.

I’d say that Polipundit and others deciding to make a fight over this are making a very serious mistake. A lot of people on the Right, myself included, have said very little about this issue to date, out of affection and respect for some of the people on the Right who have strong negative opinions on Immigration, combined with confidence in the Bush Administration’s unwillingness to acquiese to a Nativist crackdown.

If the anti-Immigration side of the Conservative Movement continues to try to operate under the erroneous impression that it has any prospect whatsoever of calling the shots on this issue, it is only going to succeed in underminding the respect of their readers for the good judgement of certain commentators. There is no prospect of the anti-Immigration Right compelling either the Administration, or the libertarian portion of the Conservative Movement, to join in opposition to naturalizing people already here.

And don’t give me any of Polipundit’s “I’m a legal immigrant, and I feel strongly” stuff; my grandparents were legal immigrants. It was obviously a lot easier for them to immigrate legally in the 1890s than it is for Hispanic immigrants today, but the basic circumstances are much the same. American needs cheap labor, and people living in unfavorable conditions abroad are willing to come here to do the jobs Americans don’t want to do in return for a better life. In the context of existing American labor market demand, there is no valid reason that it should be any more difficult for a Mexican or Salvadoran immigrant to come to the United States to work in 2006 than it was for a Pole or Italian in 1906.

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Good for you. I agree completely with your principled and reasoned stand on this issue. It is not realistic to think in terms of criminalizing something over 10 million people who have managed to come to work and live in the United States over the past quarter century, and it would not be just or humane, either.

In reality, administrations of both parties have accepted the status quo of a leaking border as a convenient political compromise for decades. We need cheap labor, but cannot offend labor unions. The blame lies with our own government. Now that there is a clear and present danger to our security, many of government’s players want desperately to be perceived to be “doing something”, and justice, mercy, sanity or economics be damned.

To be sure, we do need (finally) to secure the border. We do need a viable guest worker program, with a workable pathway to citizenship for both guest workers and for those who are already here and making a life amongst us. We need more realistic (higher) overall immigration quotas, and a rational preference for needed skills.

We need to remember that we are the great nation we are because those with the gumption to change their fortunes and make a new life have come here to do it for generations. We need, but probably can’t reasonably hope for, legalization of most all “abusable” drugs; the corrupting effect of this experiment in prohibition on the security of our borders is just as much a disaster as it was under the Volsted Act.

What we really don’t need is a catastrophic de-lamination of the conservative movement along social conservative vs. libertarian lines, and certainly not at a time when it should be obvious to any fool that the Democrat party cannot possibly be trusted to govern.


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