A Report on CPAC's Lone Immigration Policy Panel

By Jon Feere on March 5, 2016

The Conservative Political Action Conference held one immigration-related event at this year's gathering. It was held on the main stage and was titled, "Point Counter-Point: Two Takes on Immigration". It was moderated by Becky Norton Dunlop of the Heritage Foundation. The first speaker was Kate Bryan of Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, who provided the high-immigration, pro-amnesty, open-border view of immigration in a cliché-ridden speech. The counterpoint was provided by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) who argued for better enforcement of our immigration laws and an adherence to the rule of law.

A video of the debate can be viewed on C-SPAN; it starts about 21 minutes in.

Bryan started her talk arguing that "with the political rhetoric on immigration it seems as though there are only two sides to this issue: you're either for Obama's amnesty, or you're for self-deportation." She argued that there is a third way that was supported by Reagan, which "is based on the rule of law but also respects the proper role of immigrants within the makeup of our society." As everyone knows, this means amnesty. So instead of an Obama amnesty, she'd likely prefer a Rubio amnesty. Either way, illegal aliens get to stay in the United States indefinitely.

She claimed that we have 11 million people "living within the shadows of our country", apparently unaware that illegal aliens are regularly marching in the streets, appearing on television, and protesting at presidential campaign events. Illegal aliens are not in the shadows (though their identity theft usually is), but amnesty advocates who don't understand the immigration issue routinely resort to these tiresome clichés.

She did acknowledge the open border, but acknowledging the easily exploited border is now just a prerequisite for those pushing the mass immigration agenda. On the other hand, she did call for an E-Verify mandate and for a biometric entry-exit system to be implemented (of course, Congress has already put those into law multiple times over a couple decades).

Having gotten the obligatory enforcement-related lines out of the way, Bryan then continued on to the main goal of her open-border agenda with: "But the truly conservative approach to immigration does not end here." She then called for removing immigration policy from the hands of the American people and placing it entirely into the hands of companies like Facebook, arguing "the market is better equipped than the government to regulate our nation's immigration flows."

This is a radical proposal aimed at weakening the influence of the American people. In a government of the people and by the people, it's quite insulting to suggest that Americans are not well-equipped to decide what our immigration flow should be. But that's what Bryan and her allies are arguing. They believe that special interests — whether it's Microsoft, the hotel industry, the Chamber of Commerce, or La Raza — should be the ones deciding how much immigration and what type of immigration we will have.

Though I'm probably reading too much into it, when Bryan delivered that line, C-SPAN cut to a couple of audience members getting up and walking out.

Bryan then claimed that she understands the plight of the middle class and is aware of stagnating wages, but argued that these issues are not due to immigration, but rather "flawed monetary policy, overregulation, over-taxation, and a culture built by elites at Berkeley, Harvard, and even right here in Washington, D.C."

Of course, these elites are completely on Bryan's side and are continuously calling for mass immigration. And the idea that flooding a labor market with large amounts of cheap labor has no effect on wages is simply inaccurate. There's no incentive for a business to offer a higher wage if there's a continuous flow of foreign laborers who view the low wage as fantastic. This is why Big Business is always championing "comprehensive immigration reform" — the Rubio-Schumer amnesty would have dramatically increased legal immigration and provided low-wage workers to a number of industries.

Bryan then lobbed this whopper at CPAC's attendees: "The truth is, even in this slow-growing economy, America needs foreign workers, not just to do the jobs Americans don't want, but to do the jobs that are necessary to create other good-paying jobs for Americans."

The open-border crowd to Americans: You're just lazy and we need to import a better class of people to create jobs that you might actually do.

Bryan continued with this amazingly inaccurate statement: "Contrary to popular rhetoric, immigrants are not taking jobs away from Americans." Apparently Bryan hasn't followed any immigration news over the past year and is completely unaware of what's happening to tech workers at Disney, Southern California Edison, and other companies. That's the best-case scenario. At worst, she doesn't care. Perhaps if hundreds of CPAC attendees weren't stuck in the 90-minute security line outside, she would have been booed off the stage at this point.

She then argued that if we "truly care about our middle class" we should dramatically increase the flow of foreign workers and expand guestworker programs. She made no attempt to explain how the middle class would benefit from massive increases in cheap foreign labor. She explained how the program would work: "Under this program, an American company that cannot find American workers — and I repeat, cannot find American workers — can bring foreign workers into the country legally to temporary work here."

Naturally, she left out an important part of the equation. It's not that companies have to prove they cannot find an American worker. It's that the company has to prove that they cannot find an American worker at the wage they're currently offering. And even then, they barely have to prove it. But once the company claims they can't find an American willing to work at $10 an hour (for a job that could be filled by an American if it payed 15 an hour), Bryan believes these companies should be able to call upon Big Government to provide them a more desperate workforce from abroad that will ultimately have to be subsidized by American taxpayers on account of the low pay. And she calls this "conservative".

Her claim that her proposed guestworker program would only be temporary is similarly misleading. She admits that they could come back if needed again. And of course the guestworkers her allies propose would be indefinitely "needed" by these cheap-labor-seeking companies; and those workers who did not have their status renewed would just stay anyway, becoming illegal aliens. There's nothing more permanent than a temporary guestworker.

Bryan then shifted from her call for cheap foreign workers to a call for granting "legal status — not amnesty" to millions of illegal aliens. She says they must "pay the appropriate penalties for their offenses". Well, if we're talking the offense of overstaying a visa or evading our Border Patrol, we already have an appropriate penalty: it's called deportation. But if we're talking about the multitude of offenses that the average illegal alien commits — I list dozens of statutes here — then the appropriate punishment is a fine and/or imprisonment prior to deportation.

But Bryan and her ilk want none of this. They believe foreigners are above the law and should be given nothing more than a slap on the wrist (which can be waived, if Rubio is writing the bill).

Bryan concluded her speech with flowery rhetoric about Lincoln, the Irish, Nixon, Ford, and added this little gem: "Nativism is not a part of the conservative philosophy." This is basically the open-border crowd's way of saying "If you believe foreigners should respect our laws, and if you believe special interests shouldn't be in charge of our immigration policy, we're going to call you names."

Remember, only 7 percent of Americans are calling for more immigration. Ms. Bryan is part of this small minority of mass-immigration advocates.

Rep. Gohmert followed her, explaining that "comprehensive" in the context of immigration is a code word: in Washington, "comprehensive means 'there's a whole lot of stuff we wanna pass that nobody'd vote for if they see what it is, so we need a really long bill to hide that in so we can get it passed.' That's what 'comprehensive' means."

Gohmert, who has an A+ rating from NumbersUSA on immigration, talked about his experience on the U.S.-Mexico border and said that "every mile of our border, the whole border, is under some drug cartel's control. You don't cross that border unless you have permission of the drug cartel. So when somebody comes across, normally they've had to pay the gangs to bring them in." Gohmert's point wasn't so much that our borders are dangerous, but rather to point out that illegal aliens are routinely lying to our border officials. Gohmert said that border agents have told him that over 90 percent of people crossing claim they are coming to the United States to escape gang violence, but that when the agents press them on it (speaking with better Spanish than many of those attempting to enter) and point out that the agents know the alien has paid a gang to get to this point, 90 percent of the time the alien admits to lying, saying "we were told to say we were escaping gang violence."

This fiction is what the open-border advocates use to make the case that the waves of Central American illegal aliens coming across are entitled to asylum and a permanent stay in the United States.

Gohmert explained that Central American kids are being exploited on the trip through Mexico and that our open borders are encouraging people to take this risky and dangerous route here. He called for a secure border and sending the message that people shouldn't take the trip because they're not going to get in. To the crowd's applause he asked, "wouldn't that be more compassionate?"

Gohmert also noted that it's unfair to those who attempt to come to the United States legally to welcome in those who come illegally. He said that people who support open borders who come before his committee argue that those coming here want opportunity, but that he then asks them why these people have left their homelands. According to Gohmert, those testifying eventually say, "There's corruption, there's graft, they don't follow the law there." Gohmert notes that this is exactly why the United States needs to follow the law rather than risk becoming "like the country they came from." Gohmert argued, "We can't do that. We owe this country more than that."

Gohmert then made the case that any type of legal status will eventually become the right to vote. He concluded arguing that the United States is in trouble, that we have to get the immigration issue right, and that "we've got to stand for the rule of law, we've got to stand up and say we're not giving special privileges to anybody. And if we will do that, we can say with Lincoln, that this nation, under God, can have a new birth of freedom — again, we can do it again — so that government of the people, by the people, and for the people will not perish from the Earth". For that, Gohmert received a standing ovation.

The moderator returned to the stage and noted that she worked for Ronald Reagan and that when he passed the 1986 amnesty, the legalization happened, but the enforcement provisions never materialized. She said that this is why we must remember Reagan's "trust, but verify" signature phrase.

But the moderator then attempted to sum up the discussion, saying "what we agreed on today is America, the United States, conservatives are for legal immigration because we're a nation of immigration. We're a melting pot and we should be."

I don't think there was any agreement to this point and the audience did not applaud her sentiment. In fact, there was not any serious discussion of legal immigration. How much legal immigration should we have each year? More than the one million permanent legal residents we currently experience (as the first speaker wanted), or less immigration? This is a key immigration question that has been virtually ignored throughout the election cycle, thus far. As for the melting pot, this requires assimilation. And assimilation cannot occur when mass immigration, disproportionately from a single ethnic group, floods a country, particularly when the country has legally mandated multiculturalism. Lower levels of immigration are key to maintaining our national motto of E Pluribus Unum.

The moderator did get applause when she said, "No amnesty, no new comprehensive laws, lets enforce the laws on the books." The moderator also said we can look for new workers "when every American has a job", which seems to be a rejection of Bryan's visa expansion goal. But more debate would be needed to clarify.

To this extent, it would be great if CPAC 2017 included a more robust series of panels on the various aspects of immigration policy that have not been fully vetted during this election cycle. It would have been helpful for CPAC to do so this year, ahead of the presidential election, but unfortunately CPAC is not that interested in the non-elite position on immigration.


Topics: Politics