There was a lot of celebration of the failure to pass a comprehensive immigration bill at RedState last week. This shows just how wrong conservatives have gone on immigration on so many levels, particularly morally and ethically.
The moral aspect of this issue is very clear to me. This country was founded on the self-evident truth that "all men are created equal". As such, they had certain rights that came from God, including life, liberty, and the ability to pursue happiness. It came from the Declaration of Independence. Some of those rights were set forth in the Bill of Rights, ratified in 1789. I saw no exception on the basis of race or national origin in either of those documents. Indeed, the 14th Amendment made it doubly clear that no person was to be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
Yet, these days, to be considered a conservative in good standing, I must embrace claims that the President and the United States Senate engaged in "treachery", that they supported the "dispossession"of the United States of America. It is a veiled way of calling those he disagrees with traitors. This is, in essence, an act of cowardice. Rather than debate the ideas, he dismisses it with an ad hominem, and the only proof backing that attack is the fact that those he labels as supporting the alleged treachery and dispossession are in disagreement with Paul J Cella on the issue of immigration.
It matters not that they deliberately mischaracterize the President's proposal as "amnesty" (there is punishment - it is just not the punishment demanded by people like zampolit Cella and others on his side of the debate). In fact, there is the notion that the only legitimate course of action in a situation like this is to either throw more money and effort into enforcing the law or tightening the law. Easing up on a law, or fixing an obvious problem, is seen as a non-starter.
Indeed, looking at the treatment Mike Pence received, it is obvious that "amnesty" has a very simple definition: An immigration reform bill that does not have Tom Tancredo's approval. It is a classic case of shifting goalposts. It is the biggest lie since Bill Clinton claimed that Republicans wanted Medicare cuts (after all, complaints that Republicans weren't increasing spending enough just wouldn't fly with the public). We cannot question their rationale for this. Nor can we offer arguments - that alone is sufficient to brand us as heretics.
Indeed, these days, it seems that one who wishes to identify himself as a conservative must accept the neo-"blood and soil" argument that emanates from Pat Buchanan and others like him. This argument claims that truly being an American is largely a function of who one is born to - and also argues that those from the "Third World" are somehow incapable of being Americans. Not only that, we must accept and defend a broken system that will not even tell those it rejects the reasons why they are rejected or how to gain acceptance.
How this argument can be reconciled with the founding documents of this country is a mystery to me. Reforming the system to encompass objective criteria that a person will be able to understand is never considered. Instead, the demand is for a moratorium on legal immigration, a wall on the border, and measures more draconian than previous enforcement efforts.
This is wrong on so many levels.
First, it is wrong because it allows a broken system to fester, breeding more resentment of the law in the first place. The failure of Prohibition was not due to a lack of effort by the government, it was because enough people saw fit to defy and break the law. It should have been patently obvious to some that telling a person they could not consume alcohol could not be enforced without a level of surveillance that would have placed America under an Orwellian nightmare, or that the enforcement would, by necessity, become random and increasingly arbitrary - and the latter course of action would only engender further resentment and defiance of the law itself.
On immigration, I submit that this tipping point has already been passed. We have a combined federal, state, and local prison population of 2,226,787, according to the latest DOJ report I was able to locate. The number of illegal immigrants is held to be at anywhere from 11 to 20 million, depending on the estimates. Divide the 11 million and 20 million figures by the 2,226,787, and you realize that the ratio of illegal immigrants to prison beds is well over the number one. And that assumes we throw open every prison cell. Who wants to release Charles Manson or Zacarias Moussaoui?
On a second level, the conservative position is wrong because it misplaces priorities. We have already seen one potential standoff emerge over the intention of ICE to deport a cleaning lady. A cleaning lady. How do cleaning ladies (not to mention gardeners, nannies, and construction workers) even come close to threatening the dispossession of the United States of America? Shouldn't the efforts be more focused on those who do mean the United States harm (like gang members, drug smugglers, and terrorists)?
On a third level, the conservative position, particularly as enunciated by Cella, is wrong because it is vague. "Protecting the culture" is admirable on its face. But those who cite that fail to explain exactly what their view of American culture is. What is American culture in their minds? This is not a minor detail of the debate - it is the central question of the debate. Unless a definition is pinned down, it is far too easy for the goalposts to be shifted.
And when people decline to provide such definitions, I get nervous and suspicious. This is because there are some slimy elements to the immigration debate on the right, including out-and-out racists like Jared Taylor. I want to know what they are thinking, and what they seek to defend. And I want specifics. If I don't get specifics, I'm going to have to assume the worst.
For a classic example, look at how Tamar Jacoby's proposals are often treated. If the issue is a secure border, then why not simplify the immigration process and increase the quotas? This draws fire - even though it addresses the problem of illegal immigration. This leads me to ask just what exactly their objective is.
Finally, the position is wrong because the conservative position, as enunciated by Cella, relies on the demonization and mischaracterization of its opponents. Accusations of treason, supporting the dispossession of the United States are commonplace, not to mention the epithet of "open-borders fanatic" - in all of this, the only proof of these allegations come from the fact that those who are accused disagree with their pronouncements on immigration.
Conservatives have managed to get this issue very wrong. Their refusal to listen to any disagreement is typical of what one would expect from the DailyKos. Indeed, I would compare this intolerance of dissent to the actions of the environmental movement regarding global warming (as Michael Crichton discussed in the appendix to State of Fear - Crichton also discussed the eugenics movement, and some of its tactics, as well). One would hope this is a mere aberration - a temporary loss of judgment - and not the beginnings of a trend.
But I sometimes have to wonder, given the way the zampolits have acted. If a self-appointed zampolit can read someone out for a disagreement, or merely failing to attack "the other" with the requisite zeal, then the trend is already started, and reversing it will require much heated debate and discussion.