R Stands for 'Enforcement'

By Mark Krikorian on December 6, 2006

National Review Online, December 6, 2006

In her recent letter to National Review Online, Tamar Jacoby suggested that, despite the improved prospects for the amnesty she has so zealously promoted for years, she's as broken up as anyone over the Democratic takeover in Congress, and that any other conclusion is a "slur" and an "insult."

I seem to have hit a sore spot.

In the pre-election Foreign Affairs article she charges me with distorting, Jacoby laments the intransigence of the overwhelming majority of congressional Republicans on the amnesty issue and writes that "The political stars will realign, perhaps sooner than anyone expects." Well, she got her wish, did she not?

One can be excused for imagining that Jacoby was not exactly sorry to see the Democrats win last month. In her Foreign Affairs piece, as well as a post-election review in The Weekly Standard and the above-mentioned NRO letter, Jacoby employs a stream of anti-conservative epithets that would make Ted Kennedy blush, denouncing "xenophobic grandstanders" and "naysayers" in "far-right" groups, engaged in "demagoguery" over a "wedge issue" appealing to "the anti-immigrant feelings of a small, vocal minority" that is "mostly male, white, and lacking college degrees."

In Jacoby's view, it was merely an "accident" that Democrats account for most of the elected officials who support rewarding lawbreakers in exchange for empty promises of future enforcement. It's no accident - the mainstream positions of the two parties are pretty clear, at least on enforcement of the immigration law, and Jacoby is firmly in the Democratic mainstream. Both in the House and Senate, substantial majorities of Republicans supported an Enforcement First approach to dealing with the illegal-alien population and rejected the Amnesty First approach promoted by the Democrats (and a vocal minority of Republicans).

For instance, House Republicans voted in December by 203 to 17 in favor of a comprehensive enforcement bill, while Democrats voted 164-36 against. In a June vote to deny Homeland Security funding to cities that prohibit cooperation with federal immigration authorities (so-called "sanctuary cities"), Republicans voted 201-14 in favor, Democrats 164-17 against. The tally on a vote to clarify the existing inherent authority of states and localities to enforce immigration law if they choose to do so was Republicans 215-5 in favor, Democrats 62-134 against. The vote on expanded border fencing displayed the same pattern: Republicans in favor 219-6, Democrats opposed 131-64. The story in the Senate was similar. Nearly 60 percent of Republicans voted against the big amnesty/worker importation bill that had been original conceived by Senators McCain and Kennedy, while 90 percent of Democrats voting supported it.

There are, of course, Republicans who support, say, partial-birth abortion, gay "marriage," and effective repeal of the First Amendment - but everyone understands that these views deviate from the party's core principles. Likewise with the libertarians, who generally downplay their opposition to limits on prostitution and pornography in order to work together with conservatives on tax and spending issues (at least back when conservatives in Congress were actually interested in limiting spending). But for an ostensible Republican to excoriate the overwhelming majority of Republican officials and voters as xenophobes suggests that Jacoby might want to think about a different political affiliation.

Jacoby's invective aimed at the bulk of congressional Republicans is especially curious considering that they have insisted only on Enforcement First - deferring discussion of amnesties or guestworker programs until after we reassert control over the immigration system. Given that past promises of enforcement have been meaningless, Enforcement First is merely the immigration version of President Reagan's favorite Russian saying regarding arms-control agreements - doveryai, no proveryai, "trust, but verify." Jacoby's overwrought opposition to such a common-sense approach suggests that the pro-amnesty crowd has no more intention of following through on their commitments than did President Reagan's negotiating partners.

Mark Krikorian is Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies.