Newt Gingrich risked his standing with conservatives on Tuesday night by calling for a “comprehensive approach” to immigration reform. “Comprehensive immigration reform” is a poisonous a term to conservatives because of the reckless dishonesty with which it has been applied to a long series of bills that have been anything BUT comprehensive. In particular, these bills have promised to both secure the border and establish a path to citizenship for those illegals who are already here (amnesty), while only actually providing amnesty, which together with our still unsecured borders dramatically increases illegal immigration. It’s like hosing gasoline on a burning house and calling it “a comprehensive approach to firefighting.” Comprehensively dishonest and comprehensively disastrous perhaps. It took a huge fight to turn back the last such attempt (the McCain-Kennedy Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007). Newt had been asked about his vote for the first such phony-comprehensive bill and stepped in it by making a renewed appeal to comprehensiveness:
I did vote for the Simpson-Mazzoli Act. Ronald Reagan, in his diary, says he signed it — and we were supposed to have 300,000 people get amnesty. There were 3 million. But he signed it because we were going to get two things in return. We were going to get control of the border and we were going to get a guest worker program with employer enforcement. We got neither. So I think you’ve got to deal with this as a comprehensive approach that starts with controlling the border, as the governor said.
A comprehensive approach vs. a comprehensive bill It is a tricky rhetorical question: how to call for a genuinely comprehensive approach to immigration reform when the term “comprehensive immigration reform” has been systematically used in the most dishonest fashion as cover for what are actually pro-illegal-immigration policies? But there is a simple answer.
Truly comprehensive immigration reform MUST be a two-step process. The border must be secured FIRST. Until that is accomplished, even to talk of amnesty, never mind legislate about it, only increases illegal immigration. In other words, a “comprehensive immigration” BILL is the diametric opposite of a comprehensive immigration APPROACH. Anyone who talks about a comprehensive immigration reform bill (McCain) is a anti-conservative fraud who should be routed out of the party.
Newt’s control-the-border-first statement shows he understands the problem, but does he understand the solution? Does he understand that a comprehensive approach to immigration requires, not just that legislation to control the border comes first, but that actual achieved control of the border has to come first, before any other steps can be taken? It is not a good sign that Gingrich spent most of his “comprehensive” immigration reform comment talking about the need to provide a path to citizenship for long-term illegals. A lot of us agree with him that such a path should be enacted AFTER the borders are secure. But if Newt would try to achieve it through the same bill that initiates border control it’s a total fail, it’s hosing the burning house with gasoline.
If Newt wants to keep from terrifying his would-be supporters, he needs to be specific that by comprehensive reform he does not mean a comprehensive bill, but a comprehensive approach that enacts and achieves border security before any amnesty legislation is considered.