A few observations about last night’s Republican presidential debate, at least as it pertains to the subjects of immigration and border control:
-Newt Gingrich, despite his previous record of supporting amnesty, acquitted himself quite well. At least, rhetorically. His suggestion that American citizens be able to review prospective immigrants, although impractical in theory, does put the emphasis of immigration in the right place. Namely, in the hands of Americans who are seeking the best and the brightest, rather than simply empowering those who want to settle in this country. Millions, perhaps billions, of individuals would immigrate to the United States if afforded the opportunity, but I think it’s our responsibility to consider the opinions of all Americans, naturalized and native-born citizens alike, rather than simply assume that every single person seeking to come here is doing so in good faith.
-Herman Cain nicely defused the accusation that he’s a xenophobic vigilante, vis-a-vis the issue of border control, by explaining that he favored the construction of fences as well as welcoming new, legal immigrants who sought to contribute to American society. He noted that you can be both generous and firm on this issue, and that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. I also thought he tackled the amnesty question with aplomb, noting that there does exist a “path to citizenship,” which entails immigrating to this country legally. It would have been nice if he had coupled this with pragmatic suggestions about how to eliminate much of the byzantine federal bureaucracy that currently impedes the process for highly talented, law-abiding foreign nationals.
-Ron Paul continued to attempt a precarious balancing act which entails pandering to the liberal, open borders faction among libertarians, while retaining some of the pro-enforcement, hawkish, paleocons who have supported past campaigns. Personally, I don’t think he succeeded. Yes, the welfare state is an attractive nuisance to people from across the globe, and is a huge part of any discussion, but to merely focus on that aspect to the neglect of every other problem unfettered immigration poses-particularly the allocation of scarce resources-is misguided. And although I agree with Rep. Paul that employers are put in an unenviable position-punished for employing illegals yet also prohibited from inquiring into their legal status in many instances-I do believe that a sovereign government has a right to determine who is and is not admitted to its country. And as long as states can Constitutionally establish labor laws, I think it’s hard to proclaim that they don’t also have the ability to proscribe the employment of people who are living in this country illegally.
-Jon Huntsman attempted to run away from his uniformly dreadful record on immigration and immigration enforcement issues to no avail. I suppose he should be credited for at least rhetorically stepping away from the default Bush/McCain stance, although I doubt his sincerity.
Other than that, there’s not much to be said about last night’s Republican presidential primary debate as far as immigration is concerned. We didn’t hear many new proposals, and despite some good answers regarding illegal immigration, there was not enough focus on proactive approaches to reducing immigration levels to a sustainable level in the near future. For a brief recap on what was said at the debate, check out the Twitter stream of Numbers USA, the nation’s premiere, grassroots organization lobbying on behalf of immigration enforcement and reform.