George Will: Immigration Reform Vital to Future of GOP and the Nation

Not everyone in the GOP was happy to hear House Speaker Boehner’s announcement, some weeks ago, that immigration reform was essentially off the table in 2014, ostensibly because many in his caucus did not trust the President to implement whatever reforms Congress ultimately passes. Conservative political commentator and GOP stalwart, George Will, is among those who believe that continuing to stall on immigration reform will not be good for his party, nor for the country.

Mr. Will channeled his obvious frustration into a recent column in the Washington Post, in which he chastises his party for a lack of confidence in the nation’s future, for hunkering down in a “defensive crouch” instead of taking bold steps to revitalize the nation’s economy by pursuing a pro-growth agenda that includes – yes – immigration reform. [See Why Immigration Reform Matters, by George Will, Washington Post, 13.Feb.2014.]

Much of the party’s resistance to immigration reform, Mr. Will argues, is based on a litany of political truisms that don’t withstand scrutiny. To fellow Republicans who fear that immigration reform will divide the party, he responds that “completely harmonious parties” are invariably “small.” We should question the assumption that undocumented immigrants will never assimilate, he says, because “thirty-five percent own their homes.”

It’s also wrong-headed to condition support for immigration reform upon demands for a hermetically sealed southern border, Mr. Will argues: border-security spending has mushroomed in recent years, while net immigration from Mexico has gone off a cliff. He asks: “…will a ‘border surge’ of $30 billion more for the further militarization (actually, the East Germanization) of the 1,969 miles assuage remaining worries?”

Moreover, not trusting the current president should not prevent Congress from “improving immigration laws that subsequent presidents will respect,” Mr. Will maintains.

In the long run, Mr. Will contends, immigration reform will bring prosperity. Why? Because immigrants are natural entrepreneurs. “Immigration is the entrepreneurial act of taking the risk of uprooting oneself and plunging into uncertainty. Small wonder, then, that immigrants are about 20 percent of the owners of small businesses, and that more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.”

Though Mr. Will is careful not to blame any particular group in the party for obstructing immigration reform, he pointedly notes that “forty-seven percent of the House Republican conference has been in Washington for 37 months or less,” and “21 percent of them have never held any other elective office.” Between the lines, at least, he suggests that youth and political inexperience is as much to blame as anything – a veiled reference to the GOP’s Tea Party wing. These unnamed politicos “have only dim memories of a more dynamic United States and have little aptitude for politics suited to, and aimed at restoring, vibrancy.”

His message to the party faithful is clear: focus on economic prosperity, and the voters will follow – whether native-born or newly minted Americans.  If Congressional Republicans embrace forward-looking policies like immigration reform, he suggests, the future will be brighter both for the GOP and the nation as a whole.

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