Thompson’s Gets Immigration Right

Fred Thompson has unveiled his immigration policy today, and many conservatives will find it to their liking. The immigration issue is what is sinking the McCain campaign, and by staking a firm position on this issue, it’s clear that Fred Thompson is looking to show his conservative credentials.

The plan rejects an amnesty approach, instead focusing on increased border patrols, a strategy of attrition in removing illegals, and streamlining the process for those who want to come to the country legally.

All in all, it’s the sort of plan one would expect from a candidate who is trying to appeal to the GOP base. What’s different about Thompson’s plan is that it specifically targets the “coyotes”—the smugglers who move illegals (and often drugs) across the border. Taking down the “coyote” system would help to reduce illegal crossings as well as fight crime in general. It’s a smart plan, and I’m quite surprised that other candidates haven’t made a bigger deal of it.

Thompson also supports making English the national language and allowing for preferential treatment for non-citizens joining the armed forces.

Will this kill Thompson’s chances with the Hispanic vote? A smart strategy for Thompson would be to embrace American Hispanics—those hard-working people who migrated here legally and are valuable contributors to the American experience. The common view of Hispanics is that they’re all unassimilated and they’re frequently mixed in with illegals. That increasing numbers of middle-class Hispanics exist and that they’re being pooled in with those who haven’t followed the rules creates an opening for a smart conservative candidate to reach out to those voters. Hispanics are generally socially conservative, they generally have a hard work ethic, and many of them are patriotic Americans. A wise Republican would speak to them without trying to pander and show them why a culture that closely matches theirs benefits them rather than the Democratic culture of dependency that has failed other minority groups in the country. Part of that is making sure that illegals don’t flood the job market and remove the entry-level opportunities that legal immigrants need to get started.

There’s a big difference between speaking to the needs of an ethic group and pandering to them. The first Republican to walk that right balance there could profoundly change the American political scene.

UPDATE: Ed Morrisey likes what he sees, with some caveats. I’m not so sure that attrition is such a bad strategy. For one, getting rid of all illegal immigrants in short order is not going to happen. Mass deportations are not practical, and they’d only inflame tensions. We have to set reasonable priorities, and a strategy of attrition is a reasonable solution to the problem of illegal immigration.

4 thoughts on “Thompson’s Gets Immigration Right

  1. I’m closer to Thompson’s position on immigration than Ted Kennedy’s, but the “attrition” idea is a political featherweight that, if enacted as policy, would almost assuredly do more harm than good. Do you really believe that those risking life and limb to flee Mexico are simply gonna go back to the homeland if their supply of jobs and basic services is denied? Perhaps a few, but most will simply turn to a life of crime, aided and abetted by the fast-proliferating Mexican mafia as well as the tremendous growth of black marketeering likely to unfold with the inevitable explosion of “sin taxes” artificially pricing cigarettes and other “naughty” consumer goods beyond their market value. Beyond that, the level of public sympathy that would be generated by the story of starving illegal immigrant children allowed to die in lieu of needed medical attention would create a political firestorm rendering “attrition” instantly null and void as a policy matter.

    I submit that most Americans, myself included, would be fine with the dreaded “amnesty” of current illegals as long as there is assurance that the inflow is quelled by whatever means necessary. With the overarching magnitude of this issue in just about every facet of American life, “rewarding lawbreakers” with a path to citizenship strikes me as pretty low on the list on fears for the future of the republic. There is no practical way of ridding ourselves of 12 million illegal immigrants living within our borders, so I think you guys need to concede that before any serious border security and long-term enforcement goals can be attained.

    Setting immigration aside, don’t tell me that you’re still supporting that clown Thompson! His campaign has been an even bigger trainwreck than I could have ever imagined six months ago when you were first lauding him as the greatest thing since sliced bread. I’m amazed his level of poll support hasn’t plummeted in lock-step with his universally negative media coverage. At first I thought that as overhyped of a candidate as Fred Thompson was, he’d still be able to beat Hillary just on the basis of his not being Hillary. Now I’m not so sure. For those who long for the charisma of Bob Dole’s 1996 candidacy, Thompson is your man! It’s almost Shakespearean that guys like you are throwing in the towel on a candidate as polished and universally appealing as Huckabee due to lack of name recognition even as you continue to pretend that a hapless shmuck like Fred Thompson is worthy of being President.

  2. I have got to disagree with you Mark, most illegals are fine people who just want to achieve a better life. Beyond the basic illegality of the thier presence here they are not the low life criminals we all justifiably dislike. Attition is the only solution, amnesty was used in 1984 and only encouragde more illegals. Tough enforcement of employment laws and rigid use of deportation will have a powerful influence. Take the case that was on the news here the other day, A mother deported even though her young child is dying of a rare disease. While seemingly heartless this mother was deported once before and most likely will be again. But the story will get out and discourage many from coming in the first place. When the pain of coming illegally is greater than the potential gain the inflow will decrease and those here will reconsider thier status.

    We can look to places like New Mexico with thier laws punishing companies with the loss of thier business licenses and the effects it is having even before they take effect. Send the STRONGEST signals possible that you are not welcome and most will stay away.


  3. Dave, the key to illegal immigration is stopping the inflow with whatever-means-necessary border security. The illegals currently here can be absorbed into the cultural mainstream in a generation if we get serious about keeping the next batch from crossing the border. That’s my biggest concern. I reject the theory that attrition will prompt illegals to return to Mexico for the same reason that the unemployed of hardscrabble Detroit aren’t emigrating to Canada in significant numbers. As I stated earlier, illegal immigrants would be better off financially to survive off of the American black market than to return to Mexico if they were denied jobs once they got here….and the black market in this country is on the verge of a major boom. That’s why our priority needs to be keeping illegal immigrants from getting here in the first place.

  4. I fully support a far more robust prevention methods than we currently use, fences sensors, watch towers, law enforcement to catch the trafficers and much more should be used. However we also must increase the pressure on illegals throughout the country as well, because these work to stem the tide trying to cross making the border that much more robust. I agree we will never find and deport them all even with totalitarian methods (of which I do not advocate), however that does not mean we should skip enhancement of detection and deporting. Currently once someone gets into the heartland there is little to fear from immigration. The homeland phase beyond the border should also include much tougher penalties for employers and the federal goverment should be looking at itself as well. Social Securty admin knowingly having dozens of persons using the same number and not taking action is but one example of pratices that must stop.

    I think the administration has improved its homeland detection and enforcement but these fall short of what can easily be done. The raids at the meat packers around the country is another good example, the raids stemmed from a small program to double check questionable Social security numbers with a few select employers. This program will most likely be slated to die rather than be expanded should a democrat is elected next year.


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