by Bob Quasius – Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, is one of my favorite conservative leaders. Grover truly ‘gets’ immigration reform, and understands the politics of immigration, and how special interests on both sides of the aisle seek to sabotage immigration reform for different reasons.
Grover Norquist and I have some things in common. Both of us are conservatives, have founded organizations that favor immigration reform based on conservative free market principles, and both of us have immigrant wives. Grover’s wife is from Palestine; mine is from Honduras.
The experience of navigating our legal immigration system leads many to question our immigration policies. If you had asked me ten years ago what I thought needed to be done to fix illegal immigration, I would have told you to just “build the dang fence” and add more enforcement.
After my own experience navigating our immigration system, then meeting many immigrants from Mexico and Central America in recent years, I’ve come around to fully support immigration reform. One cannot turn bad policy into good policy with more enforcement, bureaucracy, etc. Our immigration policy is fundamentally defective, and no amount of enforcement can fix it. We need a complete top-to-bottom overhaul.
When ill conceived laws get in the way of free market capitalism, often black markets in goods and services needed by our economy result. Grover Norquist nails the essence of our immigration train wreck with this commentary:
“I think the way to have secure borders is a guest worker program. I think the height of fences is not what does it. We went from a million people arrested a year to 40,000 with Eisenhower’s bracero program, and when the Democrats and labor unions killed it, it went back up to a million. So (if) you want to have a secure border, have doors that people will go to, because they can come and work. That’s the important thing. People that think that building higher walls, or deeper walls, or moats, and alligators, and stuff, and then a police state when you get here in case we didn’t catch you the last time they’re chasing after problems that can be fixed more easily by expanding liberty rather than contracting it.”
Grover Norquist also gives a great speed limit analogy. When the speed limits on our highways was lowered to 55 MPH to conserve energy, the policy was a complete failure. Drivers thought that policy was ridiculous, and instead of driving 55 MPH they bought CB radios to share information about speed traps, and a whole industry in radar detectors grew to evade enforcement, and speeding became widespread. When speed limits were raised back up, speeding became a much more manageable problem.
Eventually speed limits were raised back up to design speeds for the highway. Some would have us just increase enforcement until illegal immigration stops, when it makes sense to fix immigration policies, then have a manageable enforcement problem rather than the unmanageable enforcement problem we have now.
It’s the same with immigration and guest workers. Provide a ‘line to stand in’ and most immigrants will stand in line. Keep putting up ‘help wanted’ and ‘no trespassing’ signs at the border, and some immigrants who can’t get work visas will come anyway. Eisenhower had the right idea. Widespread illegal immigration by otherwise law abiding individuals is a symptom of the problem. After Eisenhower fixed quotas, arrests and deportations dropped dramatically as guest workers were rechanneled to legal channels.
Grover Norquist also correctly points out that immigration rhetoric not only alienates Hispanics and Asians and drives them into the arms of the Democratic Party, but also affects other Americans who are turned off by the rhetoric.
Fortunately more and more Republicans ‘get’ Latinos, but sadly some will never ‘get’ Latinos. The recent governor’s races in New Jersey and Virginia provided a stark contrast. Chris Christie benefited from years of sustained engagement with Latinos and won big, while Ken Cuccinelli reaped the bitter fruit of years of extreme immigration stances, lack of engagement with Latinos and Asians, and backlash from a recent radio interview where he talked about killing rats and breaking up immigrant families in the same conversation. Cuccinelli didn’t intend to compare rats and immigrants, but after his past immigration extremism it wasn’t hard for Democrats to spin the unfortunate remarks as anti-immigrant and anti-Latino.
Bob Quasius is the founder and president of Cafe Con Leche Republicans