The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of Immigration

There’s a new CNN poll out that was taken about week before his inauguration. For that poll, researchers at research firm ORC International asked respondents their opinions on a number of President Obama’s 2nd term objectives, including climate change, healthcare, and immigration. Some of the poll’s results are entirely unsurprising: voters are split on whether climate change is anthropogenic, with Republicans more skeptical than Democrats, that sort of thing. But the immigration responses are worth examining. By a 10-point margin (53%-43%), Americans favor policies that  focus on providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, rather than deporting them, a major change from a year ago when voters favored deportation 55-42.

This is big.

As Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick (both, I should note, prominent conservatives) point out in a Wall Street Journal editorial this morning, the notion that illegal immigrants should “wait in line” is not only untenable, but wildly inaccurate. There is, quite simply, no mechanism for such undocumented workers to have come into this country in the first place. At the risk of sounding too much like a cliche, this is a huge problem for Republicans. To the party’s credit, there are some leaders working to fix that problem, most notably Cuban-American Senator Maro Rubio. His proposal, however, focuses on high-skill visas, to some extent at the detriment of lower-skilled workers (it seems more than a tad unrealistic to expect someone who has been laboring in such a position to be able to pay fees, let alone take time off from work to do community service).

This sort of mindset, one that focuses on punishment (albeit, with a more positive outcome than, say, Jim Sensenbrenner’s proposals) is the real problem for the Republican Part. That is not to say that a wholesale embrace of the Democratic strategy is the best route for the GOP (as Ruben Navarrette points out, the DREAM Act and its proponents have their own issues). Rather, balance and a Buckley-esque acquiescence to reality is the key here, and that is what this WWG set out to formulate and communicate.


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