This Is Why Conservatives Don't Trust GOP Leadership
Last month House Speaker John Boehner seemed to close the door on amnesty by announcing that he has "no intention of ever going to conference" with the Senate over the Schumer-Rubio amnesty bill passed in June. He was emphatic: "The idea that we're going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House."
Now it seems that was a case of "It depends on what the meaning of 'take up' is".
Starting today, Boehner has hired as his immigration director one Rebecca Tallent, Director of Immigration Policy at the pro-amnesty Bipartisan Policy Center. This choice is even more alarming because Tallent was Sen. John McCain's chief of staff and head immigration person during the 2006-2007 immigration debate, and before that was Rep. Jim Kolbe's immigration chief when the Arizona congressman was pushing his own amnesty/increased immigration proposal.
Boehner's choice was hailed by supporters of amnesty and expanded immigration, both right and left. Jen Rubin cheered that "John Boehner resurrects immigration reform", while Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, told MSNBC that "I think it's a clear signal that the speaker is serious about getting this done."
This whole incident highlights the trust gap between conservatives and the Republican leadership. It's not just that the party apparatchiks aren't conservative -- that almost goes without saying. The problem is that they often pretend to be conservative, especially at election time, and then sell out when it comes to making law.
This is especially problematic on immigration because there's a pre-existing trust gap between the public and the elites. No one -- not anyone anywhere -- believes the promises that the immigration law will be enforced any better after an amnesty than it was before, meaning that we'll just end up with another large illegal population that the same people will tell us also have to be amnestied.
This is why I tell the pro-amnesty folks the only path to legalization passes through enforcement. Only when voters are confident they're not being lied to again, as they were after the 1986 amnesty, will they consent to legalizing the long-term illegal aliens that many people have genuine sympathy for.
In a sense, amnesty needs a Nixon-goes-to-China moment -- or, to put it terms that noted Trekkie Rob Long can understand, a Kirk-goes-to-Kronos moment. Only a hawkish leadership -- one that has overseen the successful implementation of visa-tracking for foreign visitors and of E-Verify for all new hires and cracked down on localities that obstruct immigration officers -- will have the credibility to come to the public and say "We're not lying this time; trust us." The political class has to earn the right to ask for an illegal-alien amnesty.
Boehner's move shows how far they have to go before they earn that trust.