What Kind of CIR Might the GOP Support?19 Apr 2010
As we have noted in earlier postings, GOP support for comprehensive immigration reform has waned to the point that Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and John Kyl (R-AZ) have made clear that they do not intend to support CIR in the near future. Anti-immigrant anger is running high in the American Southwest, and anything perceived as amnesty is unlikely to fly in this election year. While Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) continue trying to forge a compromise bill that could gain broad support in both parties – a fruitless effort, thus far – a former senior immigration policy adviser to President George W. Bush released his own proposal in mid-April.
In an op-ed piece published in the Houston Chronicle, Charles C. Foster, a former Bush campaign official and GOP insider, said the time has come for his party to commit to CIR. (See GOP Should Back Immigration Reform, by Charles C. Foster, Houston Chronicle, 17.Apr.2010.) Foster charges that “A Republican policy of opposing both illegal immigration and at the same time any meaningful immigration reform results in a dangerous affirmation of the status quo,” and cautions that the problem is too big and complex to simply build a bigger border fence and hope for the best. Deportation is no answer, either, Foster points out, calling it “logistically impossible, inhumane and economically insane for the government to round up 12 million men, women and children and deport them.”
The U.S. labor market provides sufficient demand suction to guarantee that even the sturdiest of barriers will not prevent people from emigrating to the U.S. illegally. Hardening the border only fences in illegal immigrants, keeping them in the United States, and spurs the growth of organized crime syndicates that can smuggle people across the border, Foster argues.
His solution? Foster proposes harsh measures to crack down on illegal immigration inside the United States, such as:
- A “reliable forge-proof identity document.” This is essentially a national identity card with biometric enhancements, “to dry up the job magnet” by making it easy for employers to tell who is and isn’t allowed to work here;
- A temporary worker program. This would restore circular immigration flows, allowing semi-skilled or low-skilled workers to earn money here and then return home; he also calls for prevailing-wage protections for U.S. workers.
- Registration of illegal workers. Foster calls for identification and fingerprinting of illegal aliens, allowing those without a criminal record to remain if they pay fines and back taxes, and take English-language and civics courses.
- No automatic citizenship. This would make illegal immigrants wait in line behind applicants who followed the law, and wait eight to 12 years to apply for a green card, and another five years for citizenship.
Foster’s proposal is unlikely to receive much support on the other side of the aisle, but it is a valuable contribution to the debate, especially when the GOP side has largely quit the field. For the moment, Foster is among the few Cassandras warning of the long-term consequences of putting off the day of reckoning on CIR. As Foster said in his Houston Chronicle op-ed, “By being viewed as obstructionists, Republicans risk alienating Hispanic-American voters who interpret the heated anti-immigrant rhetoric as anti-Hispanic.” Foster cautions that Hispanic voters “could condemn the Republican Party in Texas to minority status unless it can find a way to support realistic, common-sense immigration reform.” Well said, and obviously this doesn’t just apply to Texas. The question is: is anyone in the GOP listening?