Mark Krikorian has what I think is the best explanation for the President’s views on immigration:
…I get asked this question all the time and the conclusion I’ve come to is this: The president is morally and emotionally opposed to immigration enforcement, especially on the Mexican border. He sees it as uncompassionate and un-Christian, at best a necessary evil that must be entered into with the greatest reluctance and abandoned as soon as is practical. And this is especially true with regard to Mexico because he sees it as a “cousin” nation, like Britain or Israel, and thus enforcing immigration laws against Mexicans is even worse than doing so against Chinese or Pakistanis.
I don’t say this to hurl epithets â€” President Bush is a conviction politician and sincerely believes this, which is why he sticks to his anti-enforcement guns despite potentially catastrophic political damage. This is unlike President Clinton, who was actually better on immigration in many ways precisely because he was (is) completely amoral and willing to embrace almost any position.
I think he’s right. One of Bush’s greatest strength is his conviction in the idea of the US’ role in spreading liberty across the globe. Even at great risk – such as Iraq. Toppling Saddam Hussein was an enormous political risk – one that hasn’t played out very well for the President at all. Immigration is the same. The President seems to be acting out of a fundamental conviction that barring immigrants from the United States is an immoral act. At the same time, that conviction is in direct conflict with the economic and social health of the United States. Bush’s non-amnesty amnesty through the guest-worker program is an attempt to take a reasonable middle ground without sacrificing his values – something that may ultimately not be possible unless Bush is willing to compromise on things such as border security.
We always clamor for a politician with strong convictions – and Bush is certainly such a politician. However, as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for, you just might get it…