Over on Twitter I saw this sadly predictable tweet about the immigration reform bill that just got out of committee on the Senate side of the Hill:
My essay from 2004 on immigration reform is obviously dated, but I think the main points still hold true, especially with respect to the question of whether calling reform amnesty is accurate or Orwellian and heartless.
It's been a very long time since U.S. politicians addressed illegal immigration in anything approaching a comprehensive way. President Bush came into office planning to change that through negotiations with Mexico and new legislation. Those plans got derailed by 9-11, but last week the President put illegal immigration back on the policy front burner with a major policy address.
The reactions across the political spectrum were predictable but still disappointing. The extreme left dismissed President Bush's plan as an effort to revive the controversial post-World War II bracero program. The Democratic presidential candidates mostly supported the idea of immigration reform, while claiming they would do it better, fairer, or whatever. And, not surprisingly, many voices on the right condemned the plan as an amnesty that will encourage even more illegal immigration. The National Review Online's Corner blog, to cite a particularly prominent example, has been dominated by vehement attacks on Bush's plan, such as Rich Lowry's call for "conservatives [to] go to the mattresses on this one."
Granted, the devil is in the details, but the broad outline set out by President Bush deserves praise rather than censure. The plan is good for the economy. It will contribute to our national security. It will address pressing humanitarian problems posed by the current system. ...
There are somewhere between 8 and 12 million undocumented aliens in the U.S. At least three quarters of a million more arrive each year. Stepped up border enforcement hasn't stopped people from coming to this country. It just made it harder, forcing them to try more hazardous routes and to rely on exploitative smugglers. If people are willing to die to come work in this country, how are we going to close our borders -- let alone deport all the undocumented aliens who are already here -- without becoming a de facto police state?
Our current immigration policy is badly broken. It has failed to stop illegal immigration, succeeding only in creating a shadow economy and a humanitarian crisis along the border.
In fixing our immigration system, conservatives should take heed of Russell Kirk's famous dictum that conservatives are wary "of 'sophisters, calculators, and economists' who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs." Instead, as Kirk explained: "All that we reasonably can expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk." President Bush has come forward with a pragmatic and realistic proposal that will enhance orderliness, justice, and freedom. Instead, it is his critics on the right who are pursuing the utopian dream that we can deport and deter all illegal immigrants.
Once again, the "A word" is what passes with too many of my fellow conservatives for reasoned argument.