CPAC's 2014 Amnesty Panel

By Jon Feere, March 7, 2014

Nearly every speaker at the first day of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) avoided any discussion of immigration or amnesty, a sign that Republican politicians are starting to understand that conservative voters have very little interest in doubling legal immigration and amnestying illegal aliens.

Of all speakers, which included Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and governors Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal, only one speaker spent any time on immigration policy: Donald Trump. He came out strong on sovereignty and garnered strong applause for noting "we're either a country, or we're not; we either have borders or we don't." Trump also noted that amnesty is a benefit for the Democratic Party, while calling out Rubio:

When you let the 11 million — which will grow to 30 million people — in, I don't care who stands up, whether it's Marco Rubio, and talks about letting everybody in, you won't get one vote. Every one of those votes goes to the Democrats. You have to do what's right; it's not about the votes necessarily. But of those 11 million potential voters which will go to 30 million in a not too long future, you will not get any of those votes no matter what you do, no matter how nice you are, no matter how soft you are, no matter how many times you say 'rip down the fence and let everybody in' you're not going to get the votes. So with immigration, you better be smart and you better be tough, and they're taking your jobs, and you better be careful. You better be careful.

On the final day of CPAC, immigration finally came up again during a discussion between pundit Ann Coulter and the Daily Caller's Mickey Kaus. Many immigration issues not addressed anywhere else during CPAC came up during this discussion, and is worth watching. The video is available here.

In addition to speakers on the main stage, CPAC holds a number of panel discussions on a range of topics throughout the conference. One panel topic was immigration and titled "Can there be meaningful immigration reform without citizenship?" Unfortunately the panel was largely slanted in favor of amnesty and high levels of immigration, something that conservatives should be wary about according to the polls and data compiled in a new report from Eagle Forum.

Curiously, CPAC has not yet posted its video of the panel discussion; if it becomes available, this blog will be updated. CPAC has made a video of the panel available. The Q&A period got a little heated and is worth watching.

The panel was made up of five people, four of whom are advocates of mass immigration and amnesty, or as they called it "comprehensive reform" for "the undocumented". Their talking points, summarized below, largely avoided any discussion of the political impact of immigration for Republicans and would have fit in perfectly at a liberal conference even though CPAC is obviously supposed to be for conservatives. The speakers were Helen Krieble, founder and president of the Vernon K. Kriebel Foundation; Rev. Luis Cortés, Jr., president of Esperanza; Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles; and Derrick Morgan, vice president of domestic policy at the Heritage Foundation. It was moderated by Mercy Viana Schlapp of Cove Strategies.

The discussion was held in a small conference room in an obscure corner of the large convention center and fewer than 50 people turned out to listen. It began with some brief thoughts from Ms. Schlapp who spoke of how "undocumented immigrants" were all "helping the economy", apparently unaware that around four million illegal aliens in the country are not working. She noted that amnesty (my word, not hers) "takes courage" and that the event had "courageous panelists". This refrain about "courage" has been uttered by many amnesty advocates, suggesting that they are well aware that doubling legal immigration and amnestying illegal aliens is not popular.

The first speaker was Helen Krieble, a billionaire heiress who operates a massive equestrian center in Colorado. According to the Rocky Mountain News, Krieble complained that she was "struggling to find American-born workers willing to fill entry-level jobs" and decided to push for more foreign labor, creating a proposal she calls the "Red Card Solution". The plan is even highlighted at the top of her horse park website. Her plan — which she has pushed unsuccessfully for years — would legalize illegal aliens but not allow them to obtain citizenship. It is a guestworker program that would arguably create indentured servants who are tied to their jobs, or as Mark Krikorian has called it, "a Saudi-style labor-importation system".

She attempts to sell it as free-market solution that would take government out of the equation, but doesn't seem to understand that it would take American voters out of the equation as well. By electing representatives to decide how much and what type of immigration we should have have, Americans maintain control of sovereignty. The Red Card solution would put businesses who don't want to hire American citizens into the position of deciding who gets to enter the country. And the costs of this cheap labor would inevitably be passed on to the taxpayer. Like all temporary non-citizen workers, these workers would have children who would be considered U.S. citizens and these children would eventually be able to grant citizenship to their parents because of existing immigration law. If a guestworker ditches his job and becomes an illegal alien, it is unlikely he'll ever be deported, particularly if he has a U.S. citizen child. On top of this, guestworker programs always lead to more illegal immigration because they send the message around the world that the United States is granting legal status to anyone who manages to sneak into the country. Whether or not that is the actual outcome, that is the message that many will hear.

In her talk at CPAC, Krieble didn't mention her horse operation. She spoke out against Congress's visa system that she defined as "special deals for agriculture workers, for Dreamers, for high-tech workers, even cruise ship employees ... and ski instructors". It was difficult not to hear that as Krieble being upset that she has been unable to get a piece of the action. She then stated her thesis: "It's wrong for Congress to set artificial quotas on the number of workers every business can have." Of course, no law prevents an employer from hiring as many Americans as they want. What Krieble wants is an endless supply of cheap, foreign labor. She mentioned no concern about the social and fiscal impact of such a proposal, and didn't seem to have any concern about why businesses wouldn't be interested in hiring some of the tens of millions of unemployed people in the United States.

Kreible also had no qualms about creating a two-tiered society, explaining, "They are not second-class citizens because they aren't citizens."

Krieble attempted to frame the immigration debate as one involving two sides: either we give all illegal aliens citizenship, or we do nothing. Apparently "enforce the laws on the books" is not a concept on her radar.

She spoke out against the recently released "GOP Principles" on immigration, arguing that immigration shouldn't be about Republican principles. Instead, it should be about "American principles". Yet she really never made a persuasive argument connecting American principles with a limitless supply of foreign labor being brought into the country at the request of Big Business.

Next up on the panel was Derrick Morgan of the Heritage Foundation. He was the lone panelist to speak out against comprehensive amnesty. He noted that "granting legal status, or amnesty, is bad policy that's unfair, it's costly, and it won't work."

"For every one illegal immigrant here, there are three immigrants who are waiting in line the right way, under the law." He noted that granting legal status rewards bad behavior.

Morgan cited a Heritage report that found that "adding millions of people to an already over-burdened welfare and retirement system would add trillions of dollars of costs over the lifetime of illegal immigrants." He explained: "That is money that is going to have to be paid by someone, and that someone is you: the American taxpayer."

He also cited a CBO report, which found that the Senate amnesty bill would not stop much illegal immigration, noting "the day we pass amnesty, the problem starts over again."

Morgan explained various problems of amnesty and then argued that even if you supported the idea, it would be foolhardy to trust the Obama administration to implement the law considering its track record on Obamacare delays and the lawless Deferred Action policy that Obama has used to legalize over 500,000 illegal aliens.

He also pointed out one of the key problems of non-citizenship amnesty, namely that it will not benefit Republicans and will only give Democrats a campaign issue: "I think it's far more likely that before the ink on president Obama's signature on such a law is dry, that the left will decry the Jim Crow status of these newly legalized immigrants." This has already started happening, of course. The audience applauded loudly to this political insight that none of the other panelist had apparently contemplated.

Next on the panel was Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles and former staffer in the George W. Bush administration. He is all for amnesty and increased immigration and is praised by Jorge Ramos, a Univision anchor and fierce amnesty advocate. To give you some perspective, Ramos once said the following: "Republicans, you have to listen to [the following people] for the immigration debate: Jeb Bush, Carlos Gutierrez, and Alfonso Aguilar."

Aguilar apparently has much faith in Obama enforcing new immigration laws (or, conversely, doesn't care if Obama fails to enforce certain provisions) and said that "Conservatives need to address immigration, and they need to do it now. We cannot wait for a Republican administration. We have to do it now."

Aguilar argued that visa limits are arbitrary quotas that don't reflect the market. He claimed that "immigrants are coming here because we need them" and that they "do jobs Americans don't want" (which is false). He argued that they do jobs where businesses can't find Americans of working age to do them. Apparently Aguilar is unaware that there are currently tens of millions of Americans of working age who are not working. Completely missing from his world view is the concept that businesses that can't find an employee might want to consider offering a better wage or benefits in order to attract Americans to these jobs. Like Krieble, Aguilar believes that an employer should be able to offer a wage unappealing to Americans and, after finding no workers, appeal to Big Government to provide the employer foreigners who think the low wage is wonderful. And when the worker discovers that the wage makes life difficult in America, Aguilar and Krieble apparently have no problem with taxpayers subsidizing the welfare and medical care that the low-wage earner will inevitably collect.

Aguilar promised that if Republicans deal with immigration, it's not going to be like Obamacare. It is unclear why he thinks one 1,000-page bill is going to be treated differently than any other by the Obama administration.

Aguilar also illustrated his detachment from the average American when he argued that the Tea Party would not oppose an immigration bill. He apparently does not realize that the Tea Party has its origins in protesting against the Bush administration's amnesty efforts that he championed.

Without any articulated principle backing his position, Aguilar declared that immigration laws should be enforced after an amnesty, but not today, or, as he put it, "prospectively, but not retrospectively".

He also called it "factually incorrect" that we'll have another flow of illegal immigration after legalization. Considering that La Raza was calling for an amnesty only four years after the 1986 amnesty due to an increase in illegal immigration, his claim is difficult to swallow. His argument is that a guestworker program would simply have to be large enough to accommodate anyone who wants to come here, meaning that they won't come illegally and we therefore won't have illegal immigration. He didn't seem to understand that this would represent Americans no longer having any control over sovereignty.

Aguilar also argued that "attrition through enforcement" is "not going to happen". This is troubling because the concept of attrition is simply that if the federal government enforces the law, people will return home. In a sense, Aguilar is saying that the federal government is never going to enforce immigration laws. Again, he is seemingly content with Americans having no control over our sovereignty.

Aguilar reiterated the need for "courage", suggesting again that amnesty is unpopular among conservatives.

Thought he didn't mention it by name, Aguilar also referred to NumbersUSA's immigration report cards and called Numbers "one of those anti-immigrant groups". In other words, if you oppose illegal immigration or want lower immigration levels, you are "anti-immigrant" in the mind of Alfonso Aguilar.

The last person on the panel to speak was Rev. Luis Cortés, Jr., president of Esperanza, a group that claims to be the largest Hispanic faith-based community-development corporation in the country. It is unclear what makes Esperanza conservative, however, and its website dedicates space to "climate change" and "comprehensive immigration reform".

Cortés argued for amnesty saying that it would help separate the "good from the bad" as only those illegal aliens who come forward to register would be good people. Cortés argued that bad people wouldn't apply for fear of being deported. Clearly, Cortés hasn't followed the immigration debate all that closely.

The 1986 amnesty legalized tens of thousands of people who acquired status through fraud. Most problematically, it amnestied the ringleader of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Had we simply enforced our laws in 1986, the ringleader and his cohorts would have been deported, and the attack might never have occurred. Instead, the amnesty gave Mahmud Abouhalima a green card, which facilitated the terrorism because he could then work at any job he wished and was able to travel to and from the United States freely. In fact, according the October 4, 1993, issue of Time magazine, it was only after he received his green card in 1990 that he made several trips to Pakistan, where he received terrorist training. The legal status he acquired as a result of the 1986 amnesty is what made his training by al Qaeda possible.

The federal government has repeatedly demonstrated an inability to separate the good from the bad, and the most recent example was the bombing of the Boston Marathon. The government welcomed in refugees who turned out to be bad people, even granting one of them citizenship on September 11, 2012. The FBI investigated the two bombers prior to the attack and found nothing, despite a comprehensive investigation that included interviews with family and neighbors as well as a look at their Internet usage. Background checks for the 11 million illegal aliens in the country will not be anywhere as comprehensive. Amnesty will not make us safer as the reverend claims. On the contrary, it has the potential to empower some very dangerous individuals.

Reverend Cortés also claimed that all religious denominations are for amnesty. And while it is true that the those who claim to speak for their parishioners are in favor of amnesty, the fact is that people sitting in the pews are not so interested in calls for doubling legal immigration and amnestying illegal aliens.