Dear Wizard Of Oz:
Since we are in the season of giving, perhaps you could see fit to bestow upon the Republican Party the three gifts for which you are best known: Brains, courage and a heart. With its newly gained congressional power, the GOP is once again locked in the immigration battle, but, as usual, is doing so without the benefit of common sense and political savvy. Your generosity would provide them the tools necessary to solve a decades-old crisis and, just maybe, give them a shot at the White House in 2016.
A Nation In Turmoil
If there were a real wizard, the immigration crisis could be solved with a neat fairy tale ending. But there isn’t, which means that many Republicans in Washington are still operating with an intelligence and courage deficit. Not only does this exacerbate the immigration problem, but, if it doesn’t change come soon, the party could see much of its 2014 electoral gains eroded over the next several elections.
Here is a breakdown of what Republicans need to do to effectively lead on the immigration issue:
1. Brains: Having brains doesn’t just mean enacting a strategic political plan to reform immigration, though that is absolutely necessary. It also involves having a memory that doesn’t indulge in revisionist history.
Gaining power is not the Republicans’ problem; governing is. Despite having huge congressional majorities for six straight years during George W. Bush’s presidency, bolstered by high approval ratings after 9/11, the GOP squandered countless opportunities when it failed to pursue its agenda.
It failed to pass market-based health care reform, which ultimately led to Obamacare. It didn’t push domestic oil drilling (nor lift the offshore drilling moratorium that George H.W. Bush implemented) to stimulate manufacturing, resulting in record gas prices and increased reliance on Middle Eastern oil barons. It didn’t reform the highest corporate tax structure in the world, forcing many companies to move overseas. And instead of fixing the immigration crisis, its non-action kept the southern border wide open, compounding the problem in numerous ways.
Before the right screams that that history lesson unfairly picks on Republicans, consider that A) no matter what spin the GOP apologists use, it is undeniable that the Republicans, despite holding all the cards, punted nearly every important issue, and B) the Democrats openly campaign for open borders, national health care, high taxes and moratoriums on domestic drilling. To their credit, they fight for what they believe in; Republicans, for the most part, talk a great game, but don’t walk the walk when it’s crunch time.
Rather than play the blame game (it’s always someone else’s fault — the liberal media, unions, unscrupulous Democrats, etc.), GOP leaders need to buy a mirror to see who is most responsible for past failures. Only then can they hope to formulate a winning strategy.
2. Courage: Republicans need a strong leader who can work with President Obama to formulate a reasonable immigration reform plan. But that person has to be courageous enough to tell the party to tone down the rhetoric, stop the name-calling and work toward a bill rooted in reality. If all the party does is advocate insane ideas to placate the red-meat crowd (such as deporting every illegal, impeaching the president and shutting down the government), yet again nothing will be accomplished.
Such a leader should publicly chastise those pushing congressional Republicans to not invite the president to their chamber for his State of the Union address. The sheer stupidity of that idea (being advocated not just by crackpots but some highly-influential Republicans) is simply incomprehensible. Yet the response of the GOP leadership refuting such a sentiment has been tepid at best.
Lack of courage in calling out your own when they go off the deep end is a harbinger for what kind of immigration reform we can expect. Not a good sign.
3. Heart: Demonstrating strong political will dealing with the immigration issue is not mutually exclusive to showing compassion toward those who come to America seeking a better life for their families. If the GOP plays its cards right, it can get the best of both worlds: solve the problem in a manner acceptable to most Americans, and, in showing that it has a heart, win the loyalty of a growing natural constituency: Hispanics.
Instead of huffing and puffing, perhaps the Republicans should pass the common-sense aspects of the president’s plan (much of it rooted in Republican ideas) and get something, as opposed to nothing, done. Consider the following proposals:
A. Strengthen border security, as long as quickly building a border wall to completion is part of it. We could even make illegal immigrants, as a condition of staying in America, help build the wall.
B. Document those already here, making them learn English and pay penalties and taxes, while deporting any with a criminal history.
C. Not rip apart families by deporting the parents of children born here. What’s more humane than that? (Children born here are American citizens, a point the Constitution makes clear).
D. Streamline legal immigration, especially for skilled workers. The existing waiting period is far too long, encouraging illegal conduct.
E. Crack down on businesses hiring illegal immigrants by mandating use of the government’s free E-Verify system, which instantly determines legal status.
F. And citizenship? No, because that high honor, the envy of the world, should not be bestowed upon those who broke the laws of this country. And newly documented workers should not automatically be granted permanent residence, as being in America is a privilege, not a right.
* * *
There is a reasonable way to solve the immigration crisis, and the ideas outlined above are a good starting point. Should the president act unilaterally, as he is advocating, and which is understandably infuriating many Republicans? That’s a separate issue, and one that merits careful scrutiny about the limits of executive power. Yet it is worth noting that American history is filled with presidents of both parties acting boldly to fulfill a vision when Congress sat idle in the face of threats.
The debate about the president’s power will rage on, but ultimately it will prove moot if both the president and Republicans place ego aside and negotiate common sense solutions to a problem both sides should have solved long ago.
That’s the yellow brick road they should follow.