“Americans and immigrants share the same values of work, family and opportunity. There is no reason to fear the newcomers arriving on our shores today. If anything, they will energize what is best about our country.” –Republican Congressman Jack Kemp
Many of my fellow conservatives consider Republicans like Marco Rubio and myself as sellouts and RINOs. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, we come from a long tradition of conservatives who have led on the issue of immigration and fought for reform.
As Republicans, we are the party of personal responsibility. We are the party of rugged individualism, where we pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and work hard to overcome adversity. This is exactly what most immigrants do, as they boldly leave their homes, their country, their people, and their native tongue – giving up everything they once knew, in order to better themselves and their families. This sounds like the type of people we would want to come to our nation and be integrated into our society – people who are seeking a better life and are willing to give up everything for it. These are the type of people who would make great additions to our nation, whether they be guest workers, legal residents or even naturalized citizens.
Another principle from the Republican tradition that pro-immigration reform leaders stand on is family values. Being a descendant of a Mexican immigrant myself, I was taught at an early age about the importance of prioritizing my life. The order was to put God first, family second and then school/work third. Just as my family is important to me, so it is for the millions of immigrants and their family members who came here illegally. At the end of the day, if we believe in parental rights and are pro-family, we should not be seeking to deport mothers and fathers of American citizens. A great conservative voice for this was President George W. Bush, who said,
“I know there’s a compassionate, humane way to deal with this issue. I want to remind people that family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River. People are coming to our country to do jobs that Americans won’t do, to be able to feed their families. And I think there’s a humane way to recognize that, at the same time protect our borders, and at the same way to make sure that we don’t disadvantage those who have stood in line for years to become a legal citizen.”
Thus, it is hypocritical to say that we are a party of pro-family values if we are not willing to at least consider dealing with the reality that many of these illegal immigrants are related to United States citizens. Also, many of these citizens are the children and grandchildren of illegal immigrants. Historically, this is something Republicans have taken into consideration.
Moreover, Bush believed as many Republicans do, that we will never be able to secure our borders until we have an immigration program that allows immigrants who are seeking work to be able to participate in our economy legally. Bush States,
Regan also was a compassionate conservative leader who not only believed in amnesty, but who passed amnesty. He stated in 1984,
“I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.”
Reagan believed that America was a city on a hill for immigrants. He did not believe in building a wall because he did not see that as beneficial. Instead, Reagan thought of an idea where people could come here and work and then go home freely. Here Reagan and Bush talk about immigration,
Another great leader from this Republican tradition is Jack Kemp. Back in 2006 Kemp stated,
“In many respects, the way Republicans position themselves on immigration will determine whether the party retains the mantle of majority leadership. Will we remain a party that governs – that offers practical solutions to the problems facing the country? Or will we revert to the harsh rhetoric of criminalizing illegals and even those who provide services, albeit unwittingly? Immigration – including the robust annual flow required to keep our economy growing and the 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country – is a fact of life in the United States today. And the only practical way to deal with these stubborn realities is with a comprehensive solution, one that includes border security, interior enforcement, a guest-worker program and status for the illegal immigrants already here.” (bold added)
The question then becomes will we heed the words of those Republicans like Bush and the late Jack Kemp who were leaders on the issue of immigration, or will we hid behind the usual rhetoric? Republican leaders, like Marco Rubio, wish to actually deal with immigration in a conservative way – a plan that emphasizes border security while still dealing compassionately with the 11 million illegal immigrants who are here today. We have a strong tradition and we will stand on this tradition. Jeb Bush also seems to echo the warnings of Jack Kemp. Jeb Bush makes the point that the rhetoric that is used against immigration reform is “wrong and stupid” and the “combination to be incorrect and stupid is very dangerous in politics.” He is right, we need to stop using immigration as an issue of division that divides our nation, because doing nothing is irresponsible to the millions of lives that will be affected by whatever law passes congress.
Moreover, it is not just compassion that drives Republicans to seek for real reform, but the fact that immigration has a net positive impact on our nation. I became a Republican because they had sound policies that were responsible, especially as it relates to economic policy. This is why many Republicans like Rubio, Flake and Ryan have embraced immigration reform because they have a sound policy for increasing immigrant labor. As I have stated in a previous research blog post,
“There any many benefits to having affordable labor. As previously mentioned, in cities that boast a high percentage of low skilled immigrant labor, goods and services are provided at a more affordable rate. This translates into cost savings for the population as a whole. It is imperative to understand that the total national income is not lost from these savings; rather it is redistributed by creating employer gains and savings for consumers. The savings for the consumer will allow them to later choose where they would like to spend the extra cash, which would in turn help another business, consequently, helping the employees of that business. In the end, the wealth is not lost. In addition, high skilled laborers who are paid less than native born employees actually add to economic growth and job creation. Economist Peri explains that “firms pay immigrants less than their marginal productivity, increasing the firms’ profits. Such cost savings on immigrants act as an increase in productivity for firms…[T]his allows firms to expand production and employ more people in complementary task many of which are supplied by natives.” Therefore, immigrant labor helps to creates more affordable goods and services by increasing profits to businesses and helps them to employ more Americans, which are net benefits, instead of a net loss.”
Ultimately, immigration reform is good for both employers and individuals and for the growth for our economy as a whole. It is positive for the immigrants and their families. This is why many Republicans like Paul Ryan, conservatives leaders like Grover Norquist and conservative economists like Arthur Laffer and Arthur Brooks are strong proponents of immigration reform.
In conclusion, those conservatives who say that Republicans who believe like me are RINOs and leftists who hate America, need to be reminded of the great Republican leaders of the past and present. There are leaders fromthe past such as the late Jake Kemp and Ronald Regan. And there are current Republican leaders such as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker who has come out in favor of a path to citizenship, along with Senators Marco Rubio, Jeff Flake, and Congressman Paul Ryan all of which support reform. Furthermore, these leaders do not support amnesty; rather they support giving illegal immigrants an opportunity to work here legally and the potential to earn a green card and later citizenship, if the immigrant desires. This is not amnesty, which would be a pardon; rather, it is an opportunity, not a guarantee. We all know Walker stood up to the unions in Wisconsin, and Flake has stood up to the Republican establishment opposing federal spending in Washington DC. Then there is Paul Ryan who for years has fought to balance the budget and reduce America’s deficit. These great leaders and many others like them have impeccable conservative records. Therefore, when one says that Marco Rubio, Jeff Flake, Scott Walker and Paul Ryan are RINOs, I would respond, “No, they are Regan, Kemp and Bush Republicans.”
Editors note: as with all blog postings that appear with a by-line, the opinions presented are the author’s and not necessarily the positions of Cafe Con Leche Republicans.
Thomas Martin Salazar is an Arizona leader of the Café con Leche Republicans. Thomas was born and raised in Arizona. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from Grand Canyon University and is currently working on obtaining a MDiv in Biblical Communication from Phoenix Seminary. Thomas has also served as the Grand Canyon University College Republicans Vice President and interim President (February 2007-April 2008) and as a Maricopa County Republican Precinct committeeman (August 2009 – August 2012).