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  • Blogging: Battle on the Right Over Immigration Reform: Neanderthals vs. Realists by Roger Algase

    Immigration Reform: Will the Perfect Become the Enemy of the Good? By Roger Algase

    by Roger Algase

    As the immigration reform package drafted by the bipartisan Senate "Gang of Eight" moves closer to committee hearings which could begin as early as this coming week, the divide on the right over this issue is coming into even sharper focus.

    In one corner, there are the unreconstructed Neanderthals who are hoping for a repeat of 2007, when they were able to defeat reform by mobilizing opposition to "amnesty for illegals".

    In the other corner, there are enlightened Republicans such as Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post, who is urging her party to get on the right side of this issue (no pun intended) and give its full support to reform. Let's look more closely at the arguments on both sides.

    In my April 11 blogging, I mentioned that representatives of two of America's leading anti-immigrant organizations, FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) and CIS (Center for Immigration Studies) had weighed in this week against reform, with an article in Politico (FAIR) and a letter in the Financial Times (CIS). It is quite unlikely that the timing of these comments was any coincidence. 

    Not to be outdone, two other anti-immigrant groups, Heritage Foundation and Numbers USA, are jumping into the fray. According to a news story in the April 11 Financial Times ("Opponents of US immigration reform step up fignt to halt bill"), the Heritage Foundation is raising the specter that legalization would increase the costs of programs such as Social Security, Medicare and "Obamacare".

    As I pointed out in my own letter in the April 11 Financial Times, economic scare tactics against immigrant groups are nothing new in America. However, the argument that legalizing up to 11 million unauthorized immigrants would add to the costs of programs such as Social Security and Medicare is especially absurd, in view of the fact that most of the people who would be eligible for legalization are young, and would be paying into these programs rather than taking benefits out.

    Numbers USA (according to the above Financial Times article) is relying on the other prong of the old, familiar anti-immigrant mantra, namely that newly legalized immigrants would allegedly take jobs away from Americans. But Americans have been hearing this kind of argument ever since the Know-Nothings began stoking up prejudice against Irish immigrants in the middle of the 19th century. The anti-immigrant activists say nothing about the millions of jobs that immigrants are creating for Americans.

    But there are also some open minded people on the right who are willing to recognize and accept the reality of immigration in diverse, multi-cultural, 21st century America. One of them is Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin. Rubin has undergone a remarkable transformation from acting as a Romney mouthpiece who was silent about "self-deportation" (as far as I recall) during the presidential campaign into an independent, even "progressive" voice within her party, especially on immigration.

    In her article "Stars align on the right for immigration reform" in the April 11 Washington Post, Rubin, after listing various interests that are supporting reform, ranging from Silicon Valley business leaders to right wing Christian evangelicals, and pointing out that even 70 percent of Republicans support legalization with certain conditions, concludes:

    "In short, the smart thing for Republicans now is to support reasonable immigration reform. It's popular, critical supporters favor it and, yes, it's good policy. You'd have to believe the right-wing screechers to think the smart and safe move is to throw away a once-in-a-generation opportunity for conservatives to get on the right side of this issue and get credit for doing so."

    Will Republican lawmakers heed this wise advice? We will soon find out.



    About The Author

    Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.


    The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) alone and should not be imputed to ILW.COM.
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Lynn Atherton Bloxham's Avatar
      Lynn Atherton Bloxham -
      An excellent excellent summary and spot on critique! What upsets me about conservatives who are anti immigration is that they are pleading for more government involvement, regulation and control while claiming they support a market system (voluntary transactions) Hypocrisy is rampant.
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