A Strategy for Winning the Immigration Battle

By Ronald W. Mortensen on August 24, 2010
Previous blogs

have discussed how those of us who oppose illegal immigration have largely failed to win the battle in spite of years of effort. We have allowed ourselves to be defined by the opposition and we have all too often adopted tactics that validate their portrayal of us. But perhaps most importantly, we have generally failed to put a human face on our arguments and we have seldom appealed to the emotions of the public and policy makers.

Some will argue that our tactics are working and that the debate has changed in our favor during the past several years, therefore, we just need to maintain our course.

I would argue, however, that our position has improved largely because of two factors beyond our control – a strong economic downturn and, equally important, a number of serious tactical errors committed by illegal aliens and their advocates.

Therefore, if we don't adjust our strategy and add the emotional and human elements to all of our arguments, we still risk losing the battle either through legislation or by the Obama administration granting amnesty through a combination of policy decisions and executive orders.

Looking back several years, a major turning point in the debate on illegal immigration came about in 2006 when illegal aliens, who had the upper hand at the time, took to the streets to demand dignity and their rights including a path to citizenship.

In terms of turnout and of support from the political, media, religious and other elites, the marches were a success.

However, the organizers lost control of the emotional side of the argument. Rather than creating increased support for illegal aliens, the marches and the rallies resulted in a largely emotionally driven backlash by millions of Americans who had not previously taken sides in the immigration debate.

Seeing literally millions of illegal aliens in the streets of cities throughout the United States carrying Mexican and other foreign flags did what thousands of studies and endless arguments by illegal immigration opponents could never have done.

For the first time, Americans who tended to be sympathetic to illegal aliens saw just how large and how radical the illegal immigrant population was.

Americans who had not previously paid a lot of attention to the illegal immigration debate were taken aback by the demands for amnesty. They listened incredulously as illegal aliens demanded their rights and they were shocked by the sea of foreign flags that symbolized separatism and allegiance to foreign nations.

When the American flag at an American high school was replaced by the Mexican flag and then hung upside down below the Mexican flag, it provided an incredibly emotional visual message that quickly found its way into the homes of millions of Americans through the internet.

And when Americans learned that many of the students carrying foreign flags in the marches and protests were born in America, they were shocked to realize that these students' allegiance was more to their parents' home countries than to the United States.

While the 2006 marches and rallies did not totally turn the debate against illegal immigration, they did help defeat "comprehensive immigration reform" that was strongly supported by President Bush and bipartisan coalitions in both the House and Senate in both 2006 and 2007.

A second incident that may be considered a watermark in the immigration debate was the murder of an Arizona rancher in March 2010.

Although illegal aliens had previously killed American citizens, the murder of the Arizona rancher was an emotional event with a human face that resonated strongly in Arizona and throughout the United States.

Like the marches in 2006, this event was at least partially made possible by the pro-illegal immigration movement, this time by its success in fending off efforts to control the borders.

These two incidents emotionalized the immigration debate for millions of Americans and they helped change public opinion on illegal immigration in ways that we were never able to with our facts and figures and our defense of the American way.

If we are to put an end to illegal immigration and to prevent amnesty for tens of millions of illegal aliens, we will have to incorporate tactics used by our opponents into our existing efforts rather than counting on them to make still more mistakes.

If we will take our facts and figures, our love for America and the Constitution, and our dedication to the rule of law and add to them emotion coupled with a human face, we will be able to win the battle on illegal immigration.

My next blog will look at specific actions that will enable us to take the power of the emotional argument away from the pro-illegal immigration movement.

Once we do this, we will be able to stop the flow of illegal immigrants by securing our borders and by ensuring that individuals legally entering the U.S. on visas leave when their permission to be here expires.

We will be able to dry up the jobs that attract illegal aliens and hold employers who hire them accountable.

We will able to end rampant illegal-alien-driven document fraud and identity theft that destroys the good names and severely disrupts the lives of millions of American men, women, and children.

We will be able to relieve the burdens on our schools, our health care system, and on our public budgets.

We will be able to stand up for all too often forgotten legal immigrants who play by the rules and wait their turn to come to the United States legally and honorably while millions of illegal aliens lie and cheat to get in front of them.

And we will be able to conclusively and finally defeat efforts to provide amnesty for the tens of millions of illegal aliens who have violated our immigration laws and who are committing multiple job-related felonies and other crimes every day that they are in the United States.