Campaign 2008, Politics

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.