Immigration Speech Reaction: Guarding the Border with Symbolism

May 12, 2006


Senate Immigration Bill Would Allow 100 Million New Legal Immigrants over the Next Twenty Years. Read the report here.

Here’s the President’s speech.
Here’s today’s reaction. From National Review is Rich Lowry’s piece with this nut graph:
Having the National Guard sharpen pencils and fetch coffee for the Border Patrol can’t fix our broken immigration system. It is no substitute for a fence, nor for real interior enforcement that punishes employers for hiring illegal labor. The Bush approach to the latter also relies on symbolism. A 26-state immigration raid garnered extensive press attention last month, but most of the aliens arrested were quickly released again.

Editors of the NRO also call this a lost opportunity. Big Time.
In his Oval Office address, the president squandered what was probably his last chance to reconnect with conservatives on immigration. They will undoubtedly note that the president has waited six years to start talking about enforcement, and will accordingly ask why he can’t postpone his amnesty long enough to give enforcement at try? A speech that had reiterated his support for amnesty in theory, but conceded that enforcement had to come first, would likely have won significant public approval and helped shape events in Congress. The speech he actually gave, on the other hand, is likely further to demoralize conservatives and harden opposition among House Republicans to the Senate amnesty proposal. President Bush’s speech, contrary to its goal, probably ensures that no immigration bill will reach his desk this year. Given the options, that’s probably a good thing.

The Washington Post calls the President’s plan the ‘middle ground’ here.
A Republican strategist with close ties to the White House, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about the president’s problems, blamed Bush for not standing up forcefully to supporters of a House bill that would make felons of the 12 million illegal immigrants in the country as well as anyone who tries to help them. “The president responded to that House bill rather passively,” he said. “Leadership is standing up to demagoguery.” This strategist said last night’s speech was less about immigration than “about the total collapse of the president’s numbers among conservatives.”

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