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Scott Walker has joined the Light Side of the Force. And judging by the howls of derision and scorn that have erupted from the left, center, and even some provinces on the right, the Death Star of amnesty for illegal aliens and unrestricted cheap labor for small and large businesses across America might – just might – have a critical vulnerability.
By now the news is widespread, especially among those of us who have been begging and pleading with our elected officials to enforce the immigration laws for a generation. But if you missed it, Walker, admitting that his position has evolved from his earlier support for some kind of “pathway to citizenship,” has come down firmly and unequivocally on the side of secure borders, interior enforcement, and (be still my beating heart) E-Verify.
There is no substitute for a somewhat lengthy quotation from Walker, who unveiled his immigration plan on Glenn Beck this past week (apologies to those who have read this several times already):
We need to have a much bigger investment from the federal government to secure the border, through not only infrastructure but personnel and certainly technology to do that and to make a major shift. If you don’t do that, there’s much greater issues than just immigration. Folks coming in from potentially ISIS-related elements and others around the world, there’s safety issues from the drugs and drug trafficking and gun trafficking and gun things with regard—but to get to immigration you have got to secure the border, because nothing you do on immigration fundamentally works if you don’t secure that border.
To the uninitiated, this is conventional wisdom – a mere Republican talking point. The only time this kind of talk arouses Democrats or the Chamber of Commerce is when securing the border is introduced as a precondition to comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). CIR legislation — which includes additional money, forces etc. to secure the border while granting amnesty (i.e. the right for someone to continue to reside permanently in the United States without returning to their home country first) — is perfectly acceptable to the pro-amnesty forces. It is what the Gang of Eight bill proposed.
However, if some “border security metric” is introduced and action on a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens is made contingent on achieving some value for that metric, then fury appears. The reason for this is simple. The left, the Chamber of Commerce, and their allies know full well that simply saying we will shut down the border and then grant amnesty after we’re confident it’s secure is tantamount to begging every impoverished soul in the world to rush that border as many times and in as many ways as necessary to get the prize.
The fact is (and the pro-amnesty supporters know this) that if America never summons the will to send people who are in this country illegally back to their home countries, then it really doesn’t matter how big a wall we build. Maybe if we were Liechtenstein we could manage it; but not with the size of our borders.
And this is where Scott Walker’s ensuing remarks are so sublime.
Then I think you need to enforce the law and the way you effectively do that is to require every employer in America to use an effective E-Verify system. And by effective I mean you need to require particularly small businesses, and farmers, and ranchers. We’ve got to have a system that works, but then the onus is on the employers — and the penalties have to be steep [so] that they’re only hiring people who are here, who are legal to be here. No amnesty. If someone wants to be a citizen, they have to go back to their country of origin and get in line behind everybody else who’s waiting.
And the reason that the integrity of our borders and a halt to the importation of poverty is so critical?
Because the more I’ve talked to folks — I’ve talked to Senator [Jeff] Sessions and others out there, but it is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today — is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs? What is this doing to wages? And we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward.
I have been waiting for Jeff Sessions to declare his candidacy for President. I need wait no longer. His appointed Jedi Knight has arrived.
In addition to reversing illegal immigration, Walker has also declared that America needs to have more restrictions on legal immigration – again, with the aim of protecting American workers.
And so now the slings and arrow fly. As Ross Douthat chronicles in an excellent article in (of all places) the New York Times:
[Walker’s] comments were not precisely welcomed by an array of voices on the center-right. Not only Republican senators in the pro-comprehensive reform camp but also an array of conservative writers accused Walker of “economic ignorance” and “being brow-beaten into submission” by anti-immigration activists (that’s Ben Domenech), of an “inexplicable” and “pandering” lurch toward policies that represent a “perversion of American ideals and a recipe for decline” (that’s Philip Klein), of an embrace of “a know-nothing aversion to immigration that defies reality” (that’s Jennifer Rubin).
(Douthat hasn’t even gotten to the left yet).
The commentary (alluded to by Douthat and others as well) seethes with rage. This is telling, because the key distinction between anger on the one hand and amused pity on the other is that anger requires the perception of danger.
Nothing chills the bones of the pro-amnesty crowd more than the remote possibility, appearing like a dark horseman galloping out of the distant mist, that someone might ascend to the Presidency and say: “It is time now for the people who are here illegally to go home and for the people who aid and employ them — and they know who they are — to start obeying the law…and if they don’t, they will go to jail.”
And what makes this prospect a legitimate – a terrifying – possibility is, among other things, the alliance that it brings to the table. It brings the blue-collar workers who were part of the Reagan coalition. And, to boot, it brings at least some of the impoverished inner city African-Americans who have watched their job prospects go to illegal aliens.
If Walker really knows what he is doing – and his political acumen has always seemed unimpeachable – then before long you will see him holding events in Milwaukee (or Detroit, or Baltimore, or Sioux City) talking to young, unemployed inner city dwellers (black and white) and asking them: “Has the immigration policy of the last two Presidents worked out real well for you?”
As Todd Feinburg and I discuss in our latest “Harvard Lunch Club Political Podcast: Lost Causes and Climate Change,” the illegal alien case has indeed seemed, for so long, a lost cause. Hope of reversing the illegal tide is hanging by a thread. The target seems so tiny and so distant.
And in such cases the only thing you can say is: “Use the Force, Scott.”