Bush’s Immigration Gamble

Mickey Kaus takes a look at today’s immigration compromise in the Senate and finds it to be a major political loser for the President:

This is looking more and more like the Bush administration’s domestic version of Iraq: a big risky gamble, based on wishful thinking and nonexistent administrative competence, that will end in disaster. What disaster? 1) Lower wages for struggling unskilled–and semi-skilled–American workers (including, especially, underclass men) even when the labor market should be tight; 2) Income inequality moving further in the direction of Latin America–maybe even to such an extent that social equality between the rich and their servers becomes difficult to maintain; and 3) A large semi-assimilated population along our southern border with complex, understandably binational allegiances–our own Quebec. … Actually, I can see why some Republicans might not be so bothered by (1) and (2). But what about Democrats? …

This immigration compromise is essentially an amnesty deal for 12 million illegal immigrants. Such a “compromise” is not going to be acceptable to many, if not most Republicans unless it includes something more than the promise of enforcement down the road. The deal is essentially the 1986 immigration policy redux, and it will have the same effects.

Make no mistake about it, the first Republican candidate who comes out on the side of enforcement before amnesty will rocket up in the polls. We already know where McCain stands, and Romney has proposed an immigration policy substantially similar to what’s going through the Senate. Will Giuliani keep his law-and-order image by asking for an enforcement-first approach? Will Fred Thompson use this issue as the springboard for his entrance into the race?

Neither party is getting it on this issue. There is a massive groundswell of people from both the right and the left who don’t want to see Americas borders opened. We have the rule of law in this country, and to give amnesty to millions of people who have decided to break the law is a violation of the principles of fairness and equality. Every day, people risk their lives to come to this country and are rejected — meanwhile, illegals pay no attention to the law, and they will end up getting amnesty while political prisoners and asylum seekers end up waiting for years for the same opportunity. We are a nation of laws, and when we legitimize breaking the law we erode our own legal foundation.

President Bush’s approval ratings are almost entirely due to his strong support with Republicans. If he signs a bill like this into law, he’ll join Ehud Olmert in the single-digit range soon enough.