|The Hydra Myth: a Fitting Metaphor for Comprehensive Reform|
Immigration reform has become the enormous problem that it is today for a simple, obvious reason that generally escapes mention by media and lawmakers alike. The failure of the rule of law. If immigration laws had been rigorously enforced from, say, 1986, our current difficulties would not exist. As in so many other areas (summarize the current government scandals as examples) enforcing existing law has become optional; the rule of law is largely subjected to the rule of men – the rule of power. The inability of Republicans, in general, and conservatives in particular to understand this elemental fact goes a long way towards explaining the naivete of a Marco Rubio and his compatriots. They understand the idea of conservatism, know the lyrics and the melody, and they consistently sing on key. But it is one thing to understand an idea, and quite another to perceive the world as it is and apply conservative principles. Consummate naivete presumes that progressives reciprocate in good faith. A dangerous assumption.
My question to Senator Rubio [and others] is this: if a bill is passed, by what method will the US Congress compel the federal government (DOJ, DHS, ICE, EPA, Judiciary, etc.) and state and local governments to restore the rule of law and actually enforce immigration compliance?
The Right, it seems to me, is largely anchored in the notion of prevailing honor among political antagonists; stubbornly deceived by confirmation bias. They cannot admit that their adversaries do not (haven't for years) play by the norms of traditional American civil society. They cling to the belief that the Left reciprocates in matters of honesty, trust and truth itself; they persist in the illusion that debate matters, even as it is clear that there is no real debate.
As in all kinds of reform by law, immigration reform (short of outright amnesty) will depend for its success upon uniform law enforcement. There is no reason to believe that enforcement will suddenly emerge from the wreckage of our current system. My question to Senator Rubio, fellow members of the Gang of Eight and other lawmakers who embrace comprehensive reform is this: if a bill is passed, by what method will the US Congress compel the federal government (DOJ, DHS, ICE, EPA, Judiciary, etc.) and state and local governments to restore the rule of law and actually enforce immigration compliance? Without that foundation in place, it seems to me, any scheme for useful immigration reform is moot. Which nudges us toward a better option.
The beauty of incremental reform is that by prioritizing steps and evaluating their usefulness as they are implemented, we have the option of modifying a limited program to minimize shortcomings. If it works, we build upon it with another step. We have not spent excessively, and we don’t have to tinker with a thousand other elements that interact – often badly – that beset comprehensive legislation. As it stands today, the senate bill is around 1200 pages of partisan goodies.
A number of conservatives have taken the position that any future immigration reform must be predicated on border enforcement. The key word is ‘enforcement’, which addresses the question above. Enforcement is often understood narrowly as concerned only with the physical border, but it is a much broader concept. It extends to managing and enforcing visa entries and exits, assuring the legal eligibility to work, sanctuary city compliance with federal and state law, granting enforcement power to the states and strict adherence to deportation law for specified offenses. The success or failure of this incremental step will determine whether it’s useful to proceed with subsequent steps to naturalization. The Left wants rapid legalization (amnesty) badly -- even desperately -- for narrowly political reasons. When they realize that the rule of law is the Republican bargaining chip, they will have to calculate their overall wins and losses in yielding to opposition demands.
Who among you, dear readers, can even imagine that law enforcement will be implemented when the bureaus responsible for it are comfortably in the hands of progressives. Can we expect their cooperation? To proceed with immigration reform under current circumstances will succeed only in exposing the monumental hypocrisy and perfidy of the Left. But it is a fight worth having. The rule of law is the single issue upon which conservatives and such allies as they may find in the Republican Party ought to take a stand. Impeccable as a matter of principle, the rule of law is discrete and uncomplicated enough, I believe, to be politically successful. [*] Ted Cruz might lead such an effort; Marco Rubio and company will not.
Justice is the handmaiden of power.
* It seems to me that the Republican Party has nothing to lose and everything to gain in championing the rule of law. It is a principle on which they can escape the immigration trap progressives have set for them; with the rule of law as a single issue conservatives can oppose comprehensive reform without being seen as anti-immigrant. I believe it would be popular among a wide range of voters when it is shown to figure prominently into the current wave of emerging scandals, and, indeed much of what has been shown to be wrong with big government.