I am basically a Republican, but my GOP identity often feels much like the family identity that I have when my crazy relation shows up at the family reunion. Exhibit one would be the frequent spasms of anti-immigration Know Nothing-ism that my party belches forth from time to time. Bill Kristol gets what I am talking about:
The American people are worried about immigration. In a Pew Survey released last week, 52 percent of Americans saw immigration as a burden, while 41 percent said it strengthened the country; 53 percent support sending illegals home, while 40 percent endorsed a path to citizenship. Given the hoopla about illegal immigration, this division is in fact surprisingly close. In any case, it means GOP senators and congressmen--and presidents--have plenty of room to show leadership and to resist demagoguery. Most Republican officeholders know that the political--and moral--cost of turning the GOP into an anti-immigration, Know Nothing party would be very great. It could easily dash Republican hopes of becoming a long-term governing party. How many Republicans will have the courage to stand up and prevent the yahoos from driving the party off a cliff?
My wife and I recently took a trip to Southern California, and one has only to drive around Los Angeles to realize the depth of the hypocrisy involved in opposition to immigration -- particularlly Latino immigration -- in California and elsewhere. Simply put, LA would would come a screaming halt without Latino immigrants. America benefits from immigration. The logic is simple: hard-working, motivated people want to come to this country to make a living. Let them come!
More importantly, they will come -- regardless of what the U.S. does. Not even the Know Nothing anti-immigrant reps in the House, I suspect, have what it takes to create a system that would effectively exlcude immigration. Given the sheer length of the U.S. borders and the number of people who want in, stopping immigration would require massive, truly inhuman levels of coercion. Do we really want to turn large chunks of the U.S. into a quasi-police state in order to keep English-firsters from the horrible indignity of hearing someone speak Spanish? I hope and pray not. So long as we maintain some minimum level of legal humanity as a nation, we are increasingly going to live in a nation that is browner and more likely to dream in Spanish or some other non-English language.
As it is, our immigration laws are none too humane. Indeed, when I was clerking the only cases where I really felt nasty, like I was a cog in a vast, unjust, bureacratic machine were the immigration cases. In particular, I remember one woman who had -- according to the record accepted as true by the INS -- been gang raped as a form of political reprisal and seen her husband, father-in-law, and son murdered. Thanks to the neo-Know Nothings who drafted our immigration laws, there was no asylum for this woman. Ick! Ick! Ick!
Just say "No!" to the anti-immigrant GOP.