House Speaker John Boehner (R, OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R, VA) said last week that the Republicans were (finally) ready to take up the question of immigration reform. President Obama has said (again) that he wants immigration reform to come on the heels of answering the fiscal cliff and tax reform deficiencies.
Immigration reform is a subject on which the Republicans, and we conservatives, have been lagging for too long. If Boehner and Cantor, et al., are serious, it’s also important that the House take the initiative, and quit bleating about the necessity for the President to lead. The House led on budgeting, spending, Medicare, and so on for the last two years, and it got them overwhelmingly reelected, even though Progressive obstinacy and partisanship in the Senate and the White House ultimately scotched those efforts.
The best way to seize the initiative after all these years of lagging is to come with a complete proposal—not just vague platitudes and half-formed ideas. The proposal need not, indeed should not be, cast in concrete, but a complete reform package proposal—one that is well thought out and actually addresses all aspects of immigration (not just the tear-jerking, feel-good bits about “the children”)—will do two critical things. For one thing, it will take us a long way down the path toward finally fixing this problem. For the other, it will leave the Democrats either to work with the Republicans to adjust the Republican reform plan or to put forward their own and make them look as though they’re just blowing off another Republican idea for no better reason than that it’s Republican.
I’ve offered one such proposal. It’s a three-legged stool, and like a stool, all three legs must be implemented together, not one or two at a time. Those three legs are securing, tightly, our borders; making it easy to cross those borders legally, and finally dealing with the existing population of illegal aliens. Both Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D, IL) and Senator Marco Rubio (R, FL) have good ideas that can serve as seeds for that third leg.
Certainly, any one of those legs will take courage and initiative to get done; doing all three together will require even more courage and initiative. It’s time for conservatives and for Republicans to step up and show that courage and initiative.