The immigration debate has certainly caused some of the more awkward moments for Republican candidates on the presidential campaign trail this year. The Republican social conservative base is stringently opposed to illegal immigration while the GOP’s economic conservative base — primarily the business community — has frequently opposed federal efforts to strengthen enforcement.
Romney went after McCain for his legislation to allow illegal immigrants currently in the United States to apply for residency after paying fines and “going to the back of the line.” He also went after Giuliani for making New York a sanctuary city for illegal aliens. Then Romney found himself in the embarrassing position of having to explain the fact that he had hired illegal immigrants to work on his lawn.
Meanwhile, Giuliani’s support for sanctuary cities doesn’t exactly support his law-and-order candidacy. It’s kind of tough to be the candidate of law and order when you thumb your nose at … well, law and order.
Mike Huckabee has gone from criticizing the Department of Homeland Security for raising worksites in Arkansas that employed large numbers of illegal aliens to now suggesting that all illegal aliens — yes, all 10 to 12 million of them — be deported immediately.
And now the latest is Ron Paul, who has run a maverick campaign based on libertarian principles — except when such principles seem to get in the way of political expediency. He has now launched an ad proclaiming himself to be the tough-on-illegal-immigrants candidate, even going so far as to call for a ban on student visas from “terrorist nations.” (Would that include France?) For a guy who is supposed to embrace civil liberties, the idea of a blanket ban of any student who comes from any “terrorist nation,” no matter how deserving the individual student, is ironic to say the least.
Libertarians generally embrace liberal immigration laws, and many of Paul’s supporters have voiced confusion and anger over their political candidate acting like a … political candidate.
The Democratic presidential candidates have avoided similarly tangled and fluid positions by simply ignoring the issue of illegal immigration altogether. (Except for Hillary Clinton’s infamous three-pronged approach to New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants: for, against and whatever.
There is something truly disturbing about so many political candidates calling for action to “secure our borders” but offering so few specifics as to how this would be credibly accomplished. Nobody has yet explained how Immigration and Custom Enforcement –which has fewer agents than the average police department of a large city — could physically accomplish the task of finding and deporting more than 10 million illegal aliens. And, certainly, nobody has dared acknowledge the monstrous tax hikes that would be necessary to fund such a task. On the flip side, proposals that would flaunt federal law — drivers licenses for illegal aliens, sanctuary cities, etc., — simply add to the confusion.
For all the talk about “change” on the campaign trail, it seems a year to expect very little of it on certain issues.