Jan 10 2008

Victor Davis Hanson Calls For Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Published by at 8:07 am under All General Discussions,Illegal Immigration

I hate to say this but no politician is going to go near the immigration issue for at least a couple of years. The problem isn’t the there are no solutions – there are tons of good ideas out there. The problem is a small minority cannot stomach long term illegal workers, who have integrated into our communities (and who provide one of the best ways to integrate future immigrants), would stay in America under a new legal status after paying a hefty financial penalty (paying back taxes can suck your spending money dry). This is the barrier to progress which will delay any changes for more years to come (they have delayed progress for three years now already). Instead of working to fix up the legislation to fill holes they may find, they resist all bills that deal with the 900 pound Gorilla on this issue: the 10-15 million long term illegals now in our country.

Victor Davis Hanson outlines this multi-faceted issue quite well today. He notes we need stronger borders (few are against this), he notes a guest worker program that monitors people and limits their time here, etc. He could have noted deporting felony criminals instantly when they are done doing their time behind bars. He could have mentioned the end to a path to citizenship for migrant workers. There are also heavy penalties for employers who hire illegal workers. All of these aspects of comprehensive reform have been included in one form or another in previous bills. Were they perfect? No – don’t demand perfection from a democratic government. It is a fantasy, a delaying tactic. It is carted out to create divisions. You can only get reasonable progress out of something like the US Congress, never perfection. Anybody tells you otherwise and they are lying to you or themselves.

But fixing these and dealing with long term issues was not the intention of the opponents. They used imperfections to stop any dealing with the issue of long term illegals. Borders have nothing to do with the long term illegals. Neither do crimes by immigrants (because anyone who commits a felony is out as part of the bill). These issues have never been the stumbling point for fixing the immigration problem. But let’s see what VDH proposes:

To the extent Democratic candidates ignore illegal immigration, or demonize those who worry over hundreds of thousands of new illegal aliens each year, or talk of guest workers and amnesty before they mention closing the borders, it is a losing issue that could alienate millions of voters.

Democratic candidates can’t really claim that redneck racists are rushing to the border to clash with poor campesinos just crossing to better their lives, because many poor Democrats also resent how illegal labor drives down their own wages. It is mostly the American poor and middle class who worry about the sudden influx of thousands who don’t speak English and often need public assistance.

But the Republican candidates have to watch it, too. If blanket amnesty is a losing issue, so also is mass deportation — the practicality and morality of which are rarely considered by those rightly calling for an end to illegal immigration. Busing every illegal alien back to Mexico right now might resemble the past messy partition of India and Pakistan, and reopen the issue in a way that Democrats can legitimately exploit.

What then might an astute candidate advocate?

Close the border now through fencing, more agents, employer sanctions, enforcement of the law and verifiable identification. Restore faith in the melting pot by insisting that new legal arrivals learn English and the customs and protocols of the United States.

Finally, deport aliens who have broken the law, are not working or have just arrived. Some illegal aliens will not like the new atmosphere of tough enforcement and will voluntarily go back home. Others may have criminal records or no history of employment and should leave as well.

But many millions of law-abiding, employed illegal aliens of long residence will wish to stay. We should allow these to remain in the United States while they apply for citizenship — if they are willing to learn promptly our language and customs.

Republican candidates must risk angering their base by ruling out mass deportation. Democrats should support closing the border tightly and quickly — and not cave in to open-borders pressure groups.

Nice proposal – and we just saw those elements in the last comprehensive bill. In fact that is what VHD is outlining – the same damn bill that has been before Congress twice now. The most talked about issues aren’t the divisive point – and ignoring that fact is simply trying to shove the problem under the rug. I applaud VDH for trying, but it is a useless effort until one thing happens.

The one thing that could fix this mess is this: the amnesty hypochondriacs accept that the long term illegals will not be asked or forced or driven to leave the country as part of reform – they will pay for the misdemeanor crimes they have committed (fines and back taxes). That is all that is required. And it will never happen.

The amnesty hypochondriacs cannot do it – they are too emotionally wedded to the idea of dumping all illegals. Just as the dems are too emotionally wedded to losing Iraq to al-Qaeda, the hypochondriacs cannot back down now. And since they will not accept this reality they will continue to make immigration radio-active because it gives them purpose (and media attention, etc).

The fact is some people prefer to have the emotional issue ripping apart at the country and that is where it will stay for the foreseeable future. Which means, despite all the hot air and claims to the contrary, we will have the same problems continue and fester. There is only one way to deal with an intransigent force in politics – beat it. On the matter of Iraq dems are losing the debate and support as success trumps their pessimism. Same will happen to the hypochondriacs. There never will be mass forced deportations in America. America would never survive them.

Addendum: I think I need to point out why this issue is the way it is. There are only three general paths to rally the electorate behind and those are the ones we can chose from – no others.

The one option on the far left is real open borders and instant citizenship. The proponents may throw some static around marginal details to try and confuse and hide the core plan – but that is business as usual in politics. No one is going to support this idea.

The option on the far right is the deportation, purging, coercion – whatever you want to call it – of all illegal workers. I envision Tancredo and Savage leading a pitch fork toting mob through the fields to round up illegal immigrants as part of ‘coercion’. No one is going to support this idea either. The fact is we would see our security agents diverted from finding terrorist to raiding crop fields, restaurant kitchens and daycare centers. As a plan to deal with terrorism it is about as good as putting our forces in Okinawa to monitor events in Iraq.

Then you had the compromise position. Deport those here under 2 years and those who are criminals (gives something for the pitch fork toters to do). But let those here long term pay retribution for their unlawful misdemeanor violations through fines and back taxes (since they have ‘free-loaded’ on us for so long).

The other issues in terms of borders, employer sanctions, and a real guest worker program that was limited in time, restricted as a path to citizenship, etc are independent of this matter – remember that.

The far right says purge or nothing. But what they know and fear is the compromise position is heavily favored in polls. So they try and lump option 1 (open borders) and 2 (it ain’t about borders, it’s about long term illegal workers) together. That is why they are against ‘amnesty’ but it really is a ‘border security’ issue! See the attempt to confuse and divert? Here’s the deal. Anyone who retains the status quo is really heading us towards option 1 – open borders. That is what we have (remember, we can live with ‘current laws’!).

There is not way out of this as long as the fringes stay on the fringe. The left actually gave up a lot of ground to the comprehensive bill. They couldn’t even get instant citizenship for the long term illegals like they have before. So the stage is set for good, reasonable progress which passes the reality test – can it get through Congress. Why anyone would destroy the GOP over nannies, gardeners and construction workers is beyond me.

One of my readers thought the immigration debate here was laughable. Dude, you should understand the issue from where I sit! Do we let al-Qaede come across our borders freely (option 1) or do we focus our limited security resource chasing down babysitters to dump them on the streets in Mexico (option 3). When you stand back and look at the core focus of the options you realize why America is so fed up with the foolishness of hyper-partisan politics. It if wasn’t so damn dangerous it would make a great Monty Python skit.

36 responses so far

36 Responses to “Victor Davis Hanson Calls For Comprehensive Immigration Reform”

  1. crosspatch says:

    The Democrats won’t really change anything. They will give them more benefits, maybe find a way to allow them to vote, but otherwise change nothing. The best situation for Democrats would be a group of aliens who can not be citizens but who can vote and are dependent on programs the Democrats provide forever.

  2. crosspatch says:

    The Democrats want a pool of dependent voters, the Republicans want a pool of cheap labor, and both parties want the donations of the drug cartels. nothing will change.

  3. phuloi67 says:

    Great discussion on the immigration topic which is clearly coming to the fore in the 08 election. As a native Californian, I think we have a clear voice coming from Dr. Hanson whose ideas should resonate nationwide. AJ: You have the right sense about the fringes keeping this issue from moving forward. You make me re-think my real aversion to McCain and his amnesty games on the issue last year. Maybe he could amend/clarify his amnesty package to meet your parameters and couple it with his obvious advantage on national security to really get some momentum in the election. What nobody has mentioned in this very readable thread is this: Is there anybody running for President who is willing and able to call the Mexican Govt on its corrupt stance vis-a-vis illegal immigration and to put some muscle behind it? Why do we keep our prisons full of Mexican drug goons at great cost? (See the Governator’s money problems) They should be the first ones sent back to a cozy cell in Mexico City. With a good fence, they wouldn’t come back. Face the facts: the US benefits from Mexican labor. Let’s control it and continue to reap the benefits. PhuLoi67

  4. Terrye says:


    My grandparents were Okies during the 30’s. They went back to Oklahoma, a lot of the rest of my family did not, they stayed in California.

    Back in those days the closest thing the government came to in terms of social welfare was shipping out the Mexicans so that the Okies could work the fields in California. Ofcourse it turned out that half of the socalled Mexicans they shipped out of the country were in fact American citizens. But they looked and sounded like Mexicans so no one cared. Once the Depression was over the US government was asking the Mexicans for workers. That was about 70 years ago.

    The American southwest was Spanish before it was Anglo, and there was always a tradition of migrant workers coming north to work. Once we got subsidized water in southwest and California and the population of the area grew, the economy took off and there was always a huge demand for labor. Now they want to reverse that trend.

    Fine, but AJ is right. If you do not compromise at all, nothing will get done. Whatver happened to California, it did not happen between 2004 and now, it has been a process going on for many years. Fixing it will not be something that happens overnight. In fact I would say that there are a lot of people in California who apparently do not want to fix it whatever the law is.

    So don’t blame the rest of us. I read somewhere that the majority of the illegals in this country are in California, so maybe the Californians need to stop blaming the rest of us.

  5. SallyVee says:

    A.J., you’ve encapsulated the whole mess. I am sick to my stomach, because I think you’re correct that “it won’t happen.” And this debate (which is not really a debate in most quarters) will never end, and will only continue to damage the GOP.

    I keep hoping one of the drug companies will come up with a fix-it pill for those who’ve been blinded to distraction by the issue.

    Please tell us what you think will happen on immigration under a Dem prez with strong Dem majorities in Congress. Wouldn’t it be ironic if they used W’s original plan and passed it on the first try?

  6. VinceP1974 says:

    Who cares about deportation policy? Deportation policy dont mean crap when they can just waltz right back in.

    Build the moat and the wall and the razor wire … so when the few are pushed out. they stay out… and those who want to invade us.. will have to try a bit harder.

    Then for the people left behind in the US… Institute some sort of SSI Number verification program (I’m pretty sure someone in the UNITED STATES can think of a way to do this) and threaten to dissolve any company that hires illegals after a certain extent of criminal employment is meant.

    Then let all the illegals who cant get jobs DEPORT THEMSEVLES

  7. VinceP1974 says:

    after a certain extent of criminal employment is meant.


    after a certain extent of criminal employment is met.

  8. VinceP1974 says:

    And i find it laughable that anyone thinks that this government… that cant even issue passports which implement its own policy on time , will be able to administer the Z-Visa application of millions of foreignnationals… simulateanously!

    What fantasy world do you folks who think this is a workable policy come from?

  9. Whippet1 says:

    I have been reading your site for quite a while now and have been very impressed by your insight into so many of the issues facing the world today. I used to enjoy reading Michelle Malkin but got really disillusioned during the Dubai Ports deal and feel that she has become less instructive and more condesending in her disagreements with certain issues.

    I agree with you in principal on many of the immigration issues but as I try to decide where I stand by trying to understand all of the complex issues on all of the different sides of this one, you finally just lost me.

    You said, “Who is going to find deporting felons a problem?”

    I will now take your tone, which on this issue is hardly much different from Malkin’s (you can laugh at someone or you can call them a name, not much difference there) and laugh out loud at that statement. Who is going to find deporting felons a problem? Are you serious? How about the same judges, lawyers, jurors or politicians of the same mindset that free a murderer, a pedophile or a rapist? How about those who glorify Castro, Chavez, Amadinijad and every other thug who held the lives of it’s countries peoples in it’s hands? How about a Jimmy Carter who finds sympathy in a murdering terrorist? Or a corrupt politician who would sell his soul for a vote and a chance at power? How about a culture in this country that glorifies the criminal athlete or “troubled” Hollywood Star or drugged out multimillionaire musician? Or those who glorify the terrorist who flys a plane into the World Trade Center and blames the hard working man who worked hard every day and then died in that building?
    Need I go on?
    This country has grown into a nation of too many people who have no concept of personal responsibility. If someone kills, they must have been poor, abused, a victim of anything someone’s imagination can come up with. So why would the “poor” illegal felon be any different?

  10. AJStrata says:


    Judges would deport felons in a heartbeat IF that was the law of the land. On of the big lies from the amnesty hypochondriacs is all you had to do was enforce current law.

    Checkout the comments by Crosspatch – he knows his stuff. At most working here illegally is a misdemeanor. But an immigrant worker isn’t legally violating a law until they have been deported once and then come back.

    You can laugh – but the fact is the laws to make it instant and mandatory and beyond judicial decision to deport felons was in the bill the far right stopped last summer.

    Personally, I am not amused. With that said – thanks for reading and please comment more. We need more voices, not fewer.

    Cheers, AJStrata

    PS – great moniker.

  11. crosspatch says:

    Part of why we have the laws that we do is to create industries. Take the drug interdiction industry. Intercepting cocaine from Central and South America employs thousands of people in the US and is responsible for keeping a lot of ships and aircraft and their crews busy. Take a look at how much is spent keeping one ship in the drug war for a year. Now look at how much a coca farmer actually gets paid for his annual crop. If we wanted to stop cocaine from coming into this country, we could simply go to a country and buy its entire coca crop from the farmers directly and burn it in a power plant or something and it would be cheaper than what we are doing how. What we do now is allow the cocaine to be made from the coca and then play a cat/mouse game with the smugglers. We get maybe 10% of it. The cartels get to move their cocaine and the people believe we are doing something to try and stop it when in reality the game is designed to allow the current situation to exist in perpetuity.

  12. stag9634 says:


    I found your definition of “illegal immigrant” interesting. A couple of years ago I read a reference to a mid-50’s law that defined “illegal alien” and “legal alien”. Can you help me identify the name of that law? I find the etymolgy of “illegals” interesting. In the early ‘80’s the San Diego Union Tribune (SDUT) referred to “illegal aliens”. Then some tearful reader wrote that they were insulted because they weren’t from outer space. (Many illegals drop out by 8th grade.) So the SDUT started calling them “undocumented workers”, even though many were not coming to work. I’ve seen them turn down agriculture work. Some were pregnant or disabled and came for “anchor babies” or free medical care. (Because of the expense Los Angeles County was forced to close 91 hospital emergency rooms by the late ‘90’s). Some came to escape the law in their own country.

    Eventually the rest of the MSM picked up the new term. The SDUT progressed to calling them undocumented or illegal immigrants or “migrants”. Frequently the SDUT would drop the term “illegal” and their reports and editorials became confusing. In quoting speeches by Governor Pete Wilson and others the SDUT invariably dropped the term “illegal” to make it appear that the speaker was anti-immigrant instead of anti-illegal immigrant just as many commentators new to the issue seem to do today.

    To escape from being misquoted and smeared, many have resorted to the collective term “illegals”. Some cross the border legally; others, illegally. I call those who cross the border illegally “illegals”. What does the law call them before a judge decides: “alleged illegal alien”? As in many cases of the English language the colloquial term is often used to replace the cumbersome legal term and most everyone understands and accepts.

    Anyway I would sure appreciate it if you could provide the name of that mid-‘50’s federal law that defines these terms.

    Thank you

  13. Whippet1 says:


    I’m still lost…If “working here illegally is a misdemeanor” then isn’t that misdemeanor an infraction of the law? Citizens don’t work here illegally unless they are underage without a work permit and even that doesn’t qualify in every situation. So how can you work here illegally but no be illegal?

    I agree that just enforcing past laws on the books isn’t going to come close to solving the problem. But it is certainly a start, no? It certainly would go a long way to gaining the trust of those who have seen the existing laws ignored by sanctuary cities, employers, etc.

    I also don’t agree that it was the far right alone who killed the immigration bill. To be honest, I can’t imagine most liberals supporting any part of the bill that included “instant and mandatory beyond judicial decision to deport felons.” And I know that lots of Dems didn’t like the bill.

    I tried to find that area of the bill and found nothing specific that you mention. I’m fairly new at this internet research stuff, but most of what I read (not necessarily referring to felons) made numerous references to judicial order, review and extensions. However, if I believed that the rule of mandatory deportations of felons would be enforced it would be one more area I could support. I just feel that there are too many people who spend their lives looking for the loophole to skirt the law not enforce it. And I don’t see how this bill would be any different.

    I also have serious issues with the penalties/past taxes illegals currently here would have to pay in order to apply to stay…not because they’re too high but because they aren’t comparable to our own citizen level of taxation since we’ve paid since the first day we’ve worked! So if someone has been here “undocumented” for 20 years and has worked and paid no taxes shouldn’t they have to pay the equivilant of 20 years of taxes to stay? And shouldn’t they have to reimburse our tax coffers for the cost of their use of our healthcare and our school systems and everything else our citizenry supports with taxes?

    Don’t get me wrong, I would like to see some kind of immigration reform and I certainly understand why so many want to get into this country. I happen to belive with all of our faults we’re still the best thing going! But if you believe in compromise that means there will have to be compromise with both the far right and the far left and everyone in between. Maybe this past attempt was the best chance at doing that, maybe not…I don’t know.

  14. AJStrata says:

    Whippet – short answer: misdemeanors carry fines, nothing higher.

    QED: no one will be deported for simply not having paperwork in order.

  15. stag9634 says:

    Whippet1, AJ:

    I also don’t agree that it was the far right alone who killed the immigration bill.

    Please read my response I posted on “Tancredo’s Lies Are Too Much”. There I posted many of the defects in the “Shamnesty” bill. I am sure you will not like the defects either. Every Republican attempt to address these issues with amendments was prevented by Reid and the Democrats by scheduling constraints and threats. The Democrats insisted that they “take it or leave it”. They wanted either more Hispanics voting Democratic or an issue to berate the Republicans.

    The far right alone did not squelch the amnesty law. The right, through talk radio, made many of the defects known and people all over the political spectrum shut down the phone and FAX systems in congress for the first time. The MSM, being liberal, substituted name calling for substance and those without access to talk radio were badly uninformed.

    So the far right and moderate Republicans and some moderate democrats voted against the bill to be considered in the Senate.

  16. AJStrata says:

    Use of the word ‘shamnesty’ is all I need hear to know this was not about borders.

    The funniest thing about the borders-only crowd who ignore dealing with the long term illegals beyond deportation? They are literally closing the barn door after the horses have left.

    Closing the borders is separate from ‘amnesty’ – it is only the hypochondriacs who have confused dealing with illegals here for the long term with other aspects of the problem.

    Bottom line – the far right is now responsible for the current mess since they fought so hard to keep it. They own it. Everything that comes from it is now their fault – their crowning achievement. We have nothing and it will be nothing for years to come.