By all accounts, the fix is in. Romney advisers are promising he will tackle immigration reform early in his term to show he can succeed where Obama failed. Thus begins the guessing game: what kind of reform?
Conservatives should be neither surprised nor alarmed by a Romney commitment to confront immigration reform early in his term. It’s an easy commitment to make because it lacks details, and as well all know, the devil is always in the details. Yet by merely making that general commitment, Romney has raised expectations. Undoubtedly, Romney’s strategists think this is smart – he can make a generalized commitment to win support and then we can fight about the details later.
Like Romney’s promise to “put the country on a path to a balanced budget,” the promise to tackle immigration reform is easier to make than to keep. The specifics of any immigration-reform bill inevitably will be controversial, which is why they will not be spelled out in campaign speeches.
So, what should conservatives make of this Romney campaign commitment to tackle immigration reform as part of his “turnaround plan” for putting the country on a new course? Should we be hopeful, angry, worried, or what?
The answer is simple. We should be busy! We should be busy getting rid of Obama and prepare to fight the immigration battle on far better terms and far better political terrain than we ever had under Obama.
Yet, in truth, we need not wait until January to make an educated guess about the general direction and contours of Romney’s thinking on immigration. We can look for Romney’s answer to this one question: Is Romney listening to the voice of past dead-end failures embodied in former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, or is he listening to the voice of success, Susana Martinez, the present governor of New Mexico?
During the Republican convention, both Jeb Bush and Susana Martinez made floor speeches and gave network interviews. Both made recommendations for appealing to Hispanic voters. The difference between the two was striking. Gov. Martinez believes the best way to appeal to Hispanic voters is to offer solutions that appeal to all Americans – jobs, opportunity and security. Bush believes something very different, that Republicans must pander to open-borders extremists by offering another amnesty to persons in our country illegally.
Two roads diverge: Jeb Bush’s pandering and Susana Martinez’s statesmanship. It is Romney’s job to choose between the two, and it is the job of conservatives to help him choose wisely.
The good news is that conservatives who insist that border security be achieved before tackling immigration reform have two things on our side: the history of past amnesty failures and the Tampa GOP platform. The bad news is, after Nov. 6, a gaggle of open-borders lobbyists will work overtime to persuade Romney to ditch both the platform and the lessons of history.
Now, despite media support and the Washington Beltway hype of the Bush strategy, it was clear that Gov. Martinez won that debate among delegates in Tampa. The RNC delegates adopted a platform that mirrors Martinez’s views and explicitly rejects Bush’s amnesty strategy. The question is, were Romney and his advisers paying attention? Will they follow the platform on immigration issues?
In truth, I cannot honestly say that I am optimistic about which direction Romney will take as president.
I do know this much. If he chooses to follow the Republican platform and seeks to achieve true border security as a precondition to a broader immigration reform, he will have the support of grass-roots Republicans in all 50 states. If he chooses business as usual, that is, to betray the platform and follow the open-borders pied pipers of pandering and failure, he will provoke a bloody civil war within the Republican Party.