USA Today, September 27, 2011
Gov. Rick Perry's foray into compassionate conservatism — his assertion that critics of in-state tuition subsidies don't "have a heart" — has shed light on the fact that too much of the immigration debate is based on weepy sentimentality. We need to move beyond Oprah-fied storytelling about your grandma from Minsk and instead focus on reality, with all its trade-offs and competing values.
he case of in-state tuition for illegal aliens who arrived here as children is a case in point. These are clearly the most sympathetic illegal immigrants, which is why advocates have been exploiting their stories in the quest for a general amnesty.
Our hearts tell us to make accommodation for children who were brought here illegally at a very young age and who know no other country (in-state tuition specifically is just a stalking horse for amnesty for these young people in the form of the so-called DREAM Act). That is a noble and proper sentiment.
But our heads tell us that all amnesties reward lawbreaking and serve to attract more illegal immigration. It is for this reason that amnesties must be avoided and why the push for "comprehensive immigration reform" has failed repeatedly, and will continue to fail.
But if our hearts tell us that there is an exceptional, narrow group that genuinely does warrant a loophole — not those who merely went to high school here but rather those who came as infants or toddlers and whose identities were fully formed here — the sound solution would be neither all heart nor all head.
t would balance amnesty with measures to limit its fallout — front-loaded enforcement measures to try to prevent future children from being put in this bind, plus elimination of the immigration category for parents of U.S. citizens, so that the adults responsible for this situation can never benefit from it.
Our immigration policy in general has been out of balance for far too long, with too much heart and not enough head. The failure of amnesty and the stiffening of enforcement over the past several years (weakened but not reversed by the Obama administration) has begun the long process of restoring balance. But we still have a long way to go.