On Immigration: Romney is Right, Gingrich is Wrong
In myfor CNN, I explain why K street lobbyists will like Newt Gingrich's immigration plan:
Immigration is the only issue where a political candidate can totally do the bidding of the K Street lobbyists and still be hailed as compassionate and humane.
At CNN's Republican National Security Debate this past Tuesday, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich reconfirmed his longstanding immigration policy:
-- A commitment to enhanced border security
-- A guest worker program
-- Individual hearings for each of 12 million or so illegal aliens, at which those with long ties to the country will gain residency rights
-- No citizenship for illegal entries
On its face, this program is unworkable. Examine each piece in turn:
Why the border?
The border is the wrong place to stop illegal immigration, if only because tighter security wouldn't stop the up to 45% of the illegal population, as estimated by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security.
The right place to stop illegality is the workplace. If employers faced an effective requirement to hire only legal workers, and meaningful penalties for breaking the law, we'd change the incentive structure that creates the problem in the first place. As is, employers are punished only if they can be shown to have employed illegal labor "knowingly," meaning that so long as the employee produces a valid-seeming Social Security number, the employer goes scot-free. Even if somehow caught, the fines are small. Under those circumstances, you could deploy the whole U.S. Army on the Mexican border and hardly make an impact on the problem.
Immigration enforcement inescapably impinges on employers, especially employers in low-wage industries such as restaurants, hotels, groundskeeping and meatpacking, whose voices are heard through those K Street lobbyists.
Border security is the policy you endorse if you don't want to impinge on employers. Which means that border security is the policy you endorse if you don't want your immigration enforcement to succeed.