The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Evangelicals Nudge Mitt On Immigration

Much more important than Jeb Bush’s recent lecture to Republicans on a “broader approach” toward immigration is the new plea for policy overhaul from a core part of the party’s constituency: conservative evangelicals.

As the NYT reports, these evangelicals are calling for a new look at immigration:

The call by the groups represents a recognition that in one bedrock element of the conservative movement — evangelical Christians — the demography of their followers is changing, becoming more Hispanic, and that Republican leaders risk being out of step with their hawkish talk of border fences and immigration crackdowns like those in Arizona.

Tom Minnery, the senior vice president of policy for one evangelical group, Focus on the Family, said many of the 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants should be free to “come out of the shadows” and “begin the process of restitution” leading to attaining legal residency.

This sign of flexibility on immigration from a key building block of the Republican base is the best possible news for the Romney campaign. As Mickey Kaus and others have pointed out, this does not mean that the GOP has to accept the PC party line on immigration pushed by “official” spokesmen and groups. Attitudes among US citizens with roots in the Spanish speaking world on immigration are more complicated and nuanced than liberal orthodoxy would have it.

But it has long been accepted in Republican policy circles that the party will need to appeal to Hispanics in order to remain competitive in a demographically changing America and a simple message of hostility to newcomers is not going to work. More, immigration remains broadly popular in the country; according to a recent Gallup poll, 66 percent of the public thinks immigration is good for the country and only 21 percent thinks that the current level of immigration should be decreased. Possibly reflecting public awareness that illegal immigration has fallen in recent years, more Americans think we should focus on dealing with the illegals already here than on stopping the flow of new ones.

Governor Romney has not so far showed the grace and balance of Nik Wallenda and has stumbled off the tightrope candidates have to walk on this issue. His statements about favoring “self-deportation” of immigrants have done him no favors. But now the campaign has some wiggle room on the right as it works to craft an approach that can reach out to a minority that on both economic and social issues is open to Republican ideas.

Governor Romney’s success of failure at using this opening to develop a sensible and sustainable immigration policy will be an important test, not only of his electability, but of his ability to do the job for which he has been running so long and so hard.

Published on June 16, 2012 10:05 am
  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    Why doesn’t Romney just come out and say he’s opposed to immigration at current levels, period? After all that is what the overwhelming majority of Americans would like.

    The answer is that the donor class opposes restriction, and they control the agenda. The donor class — traitors to their country.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    Incidentally, if you Google “donor class” only one hit lands on the real thing: the ten thousand wealthiest families in America. Don’t be fooled by 1% talk. You see, the donor class controls the media too.

    http://tinyurl.com/6qcfapg

    The donor class agenda is short: leave our tax havens alone and don’t interfere with the free movement of labor and capital around the world.

  • Otiose

    “More, immigration remains broadly popular in the country; according to a recent Gallup poll, 66 percent of the public thinks immigration is good for the country and only 21 percent thinks that the current level of immigration should be decreased. ”

    Your choice of statistics is obfuscating at best. Many independents and most conservatives would probably want to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration – i.e. as in for the former and against the latter. Most on the left here (in CA) ignore the difference keeping an accusation of racism close at hand.

    Romney’s self deportation position and his general stance are just fine.

    I heard him answer a question on illegal immigration and thought his position – first enforcement leaning on self deportation has to be shown to work and then we can discuss details who gets to stay and who will go – makes a lot of sense and will satisfy the conservative base and a majority of the independents.

    His goal should not be to come up with a position somewhere in the mushy middle that can satisfy Obama’s base.

    Obama’s recent waiver to below 16 up to 30 year olds or the ‘Dream Act’ by Executive Order is going to hurt him with independents. It’s another example of his refusal (actually his inability) to work out a compromise.

    What might a compromise look like?

    Permanent status for anyone who earns a PhD (Masters, BS ?) here in any of the hard sciences.

    Generous work visa quotas for hi-tech companies.

    Temporary work visas for harvesting (enforced annual return)

    For people who came here illegally and now have deep roots (e.g. married, business, kids, mortgage, speak English) – permanent status qualified in two ways 1) the pathway to (voting) citizenship is permanently closed and 2) no right to sponsor new immigrants (including family). The two qualification are the cost for coming here illegally in the first place (a modest fine is absurd and insulting).

    Government aid and assistance to illegals needs to be stopped. Arnold in a news conference once responded to a question that CA pays out annually something like $5 bil in welfare payments in various types to illegals. Whether it’s $500 mil or $10 bil enforcement of basic laws would go a long way to a successful self deportation program.

    I think many people would support higher levels of immigration once we have some control of the illegal version.

    A rule of thumb that we have a successful well diversifed immigration program in place would be the disappearance of bilingual telephone answering systems when you call into a business, or the lack of bilingual instructions on everything. The current prevalence of the bilingual English Spanish is a sign that we allowed too heavy a flow of one culture/language and that the assimilation process has been slowed or worse broken down.

    Too many of any one cultural group is something that a legal system would permit some control over.

  • Anthony

    I am missing something WRM; what part of illegal do we not understand? You have talked about economic forces creating sustainability – does backdoor amnesty detract from economic woes facing many Americans? Whose agenda is truly being served?

  • Otiose

    A constructive counter move by the next Congress would be to pass a somewhat altered Dream Act, basically allowing those affected by Obama’s directive to stay as permanent residents, but removing any pathway to citizenship (and the right to vote, ever) and the ability to sponsor others to immigrate or legalize (e.g. the parents that brought ankle biters over to begin with).

  • Pincher Martin

    WRM,

    “More, immigration remains broadly popular in the country; according to a recent Gallup poll, 66 percent of the public thinks immigration is good for the country and only 21 percent thinks that the current level of immigration should be decreased.”

    You badly misread that poll. Only 21 percent of Americans think immigration should be increased. And that’s an all-time high. 35 percent of Americans currently believe immigration should be decreased, which is down from 50 percent of Americans who believed so just two years ago.

    It needs to be stressed that this section of the Gallup poll does not make a distinction between legal and illegal immigration. Instead, you carefully elided over this point to speculate about what the shifting numbers might mean for settling illegal immigration. Let me be helpful, they mean nothing.

    Romney’s comments about “self-deportation” were among the smartest he made on the campaign trail, and you have no evidence they hurt him at all outside the tight media and professional Latino circles that howl and clamor every time they hear something they or their associates might benefit from. Romney was right. Many foreigners without work simply go home. This is pretty well documented. Unfortunately, as with most things Romney says, there was a near-term expiration date on it, and I suspect we won’t be hearing much about self-deportation now that he’s in the general election.

    You continually obfuscate the issue of illegal immigration, and I see no evidence you appreciate the adverse impact ethnic politics will have on the future of America as more people without the personal and cultural resources to compete in modern society live alongside those who do have those resources. What other choice do these people except to appeal to ethnic chauvinism in the political arena to demand a bigger slice of the pie?