Participants in the two Republican debates later today are certain to be asked about their views on illegal immigration and the Middle Eastern refugee crisis. The answers are not difficult, and yet one candidate after another flubs them. Here's a template for answering the first question, with the second to follow.
Actually fixing immigration will be hard work, but explaining it isn't – or shouldn't be. And yet, from Trump's saying whatever pops into his head, to Carson's frivolous assurance that he would seal the border within a single year, to Jeb's detailed plan to enforce the rules after amnestying all the illegals, and to the clichéd boasts by the rest that they will "secure the border," the candidates' responses to illegal immigration queries do not speak well to their political skills.
At the risk of sounding like a middle-school English teacher, they need to introduce the problem, offer three concrete solutions that are understandable, hold together, and make sense both politically and as policy, and then conclude by showing how they point to the future:
Well, Hugh, I'm glad you asked that question. Until we have in place an enforcement system that will prevent the settlement of another 12 million illegal aliens, we're not even going to talk about what to do with the ones already here. We're not going to amnesty them and we're not going to launch a dragnet to find them. If they're arrested for something else, I'll make sure we have resources in place to deport them, but in the meantime my administration would focus on the three things we need to have in place before we even talk about the illegals already here.
First, we need nationwide E-Verify, so when a company hires somebody, and is filling out the paperwork for Social Security and the IRS, they also check, using this free online system, whether the new employee is telling the truth about who they are. The system's already in place, it's used millions of times every year, including by the great folks at (insert name of company in your state), and unlike the Obamacare website, it actually works. But it's optional now and needs to be rolled out nationwide, so that all our businesses and workers are playing on an even playing field.
Second, we need a check-out system for foreign visitors. One thousand new illegal aliens will settle in our country today, and most of them will have come in legally on some kind of visa, but just stayed when their time was up. Better fencing at the border won't fix that. Right now, we're pretty good at checking people into our country, but after that, it's the honor system. Heck, we don't even send a text message thanking them for visiting our country and reminding them to make sure they head home on time.
Finally, we need to undo the damage President Obama has done to law enforcement. For state and local police (insert reference to your state here), the ability to partner with immigration authorities is vital to public safety. And yet this president has dismantled the arrangements between local cops and immigration agents, winked at sanctuary cities, and even punished towns and states that have tried to do the right thing.
Once those three goals are met – not on paper in Washington, but in fact, in the real world – then we'll take another look at the illegal immigrants already here. And there's likely to be a lot fewer of them, simply owing to attrition. In fact, of the illegals here today, fully two and a half million have moved here since President Obama was inaugurated. If he had just done his job, this whole problem would be much smaller and less wrenching. In a (fill in name) administration, we will finally work our way out of this mess.
It's a little long for a debate response when there are eleven people on the stage, but even in abbreviated form it's concrete, coherent, and concise.