Home/Daniel Larison/The Folly of a Republican Embrace of Amnesty (II)

The Folly of a Republican Embrace of Amnesty (II)

Samuel Goldman continues the discussion on the GOP and immigration amnesty:

But amnesty is a straw man. There are immigration reforms that Republicans could pursue without abandoning the base.

If no one were making an argument for amnesty, Sam would have a much stronger point. That isn’t the case. Amnesty is what panicked Republican politicians and pundits are proposing in their misguided search for a political panacea, and amnesty is what Michael and I reject. Here is Krauthammer once again:

So, promise amnesty right up front. Secure the border with guaranteed legalization to follow on the day the four border-state governors affirm that illegal immigration has slowed to a trickle.

Krauthammer’s column has been among the most blunt in using the word amnesty, but many of the other comparable responses to Romney’s defeat have included similar proposals. Krauthammer proposes capitulating on this issue while otherwise insisting that the GOP should make no other substantive changes. If there are immigration reforms that the GOP could pursue without abandoning their current supporters, he isn’t proposing any of them.

One of the largest obstacles that keeps most Republicans and conservatives from accepting even modest concessions on this issue is their complete lack of trust in their own leaders and in the enforcement promises of the government. Krauthammer opposed the 2007 bill because he had no confidence in its enforcement mechanisms. Most conservative opponents of the bill likewise dismissed these provisions mainly on the grounds that past enforcement promises had proved to be meaningless. A bill based on Krauthammer’s proposal would face the same sort of bipartisan resistance that defeated the 2007 bill, and it is very doubtful that there would be enough votes in the House to pass it.

The same distrust of Republican leadership remains, and if anything it has only increased this week as leading House Republicans have signaled their eagerness to yield on this issue. Similarly, it isn’t hard to imagine how little confidence the target audience would have in Republican promises of “guaranteed legalization.” There would understandably be a lack of trust that renders the entire exercise politically fruitless. Just as conservatives didn’t trust Bush, McCain, et al. to follow through on promised enforcement, no one will be able to trust a deal based on such a dramatic policy reversal.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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