December 18, 2012

I have written in recent weeks about the need for constructive thinking on immigration reform from conservatives. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.) certainly made a positive contribution in a piece over the weekend in which he called attention to the immigration approach taken in Texas.


Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been a reasoned voice on immigration reform.  (Jim Young/Reuters)

Poe noted that “a permanent fix must include a workable and reasonable approach that sets clear guidelines for high-skilled labor and day labor, for the so-called DREAM generation and for those that have illegally entered the U.S. for no other reason than to commit violent crimes.”

The approach he sketches out includes the following:

A good starting point for a legislative package is the so-called Texas Solution. Although I don’t agree with all points on the list, it’s a start. And, importantly, it includes a verifiable, temporary guest worker program. In addition, we should start a documentation process that includes a photograph, biometric data like a fingerprint and other identifying information. Documentation does not mean citizenship and all of the rights that the term bestows. It means a type of legal status, either temporary or permanent, for some that are here, and it also means a pathway home for those who are here to commit crimes. Those given legal status would contribute to the U.S., primarily by paying taxes, for the benefits that they enjoy by being in the U.S. Amnesty is not an option. Those who receive documentation eventually may apply for citizenship, and those who have served in our military should be placed ahead of the line. One thing that has been absent from the latest talk on immigration is that not all of the undocumented seek citizenship; what they want is legal status.

He also favors dropping the lottery visa system for visas awarded “imagine this — to those who benefit our nation.” He also favors increased border security.

All of this comes from a conservative Texan congressman who can hardly be considered an “amnesty” proponent. He, nevertheless, has some tough love for fellow Republicans, telling them “but it’s time for a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting. There is a perception among many Americans that the GOP has tried to exclude certain groups, such as Hispanics.”

Well, a conservative gathering on the topic of immigration reform aimed at securing the border, ending abject lawlessness (which is what we have now), recapturing revenue from the underground economy, workplace enforcement and promotion of economic opportunity is an excellent idea.

The difficulty in getting somewhere on this issue is the fear that whoever goes “first” will be set upon by immigration exclusionists and screechers in the right-wing media. But there is safety in numbers – with participation by governors, think tankers, House and Senate members, labor economists, conservative media and business leaders. There are a number of discrete groups and individuals working on ideas, but it seems time for a confab in which a reasoned discussion can take place.

All they need is a host — Jeb Bush? Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)? Texas Gov. Rick Perry? Sen.-elect Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)?  Maybe all of the above. Unless one or more reality-based pols step forward, nothing is going to get done, which is just what President Obama and immigration exclusionists are banking on. They have an interest in perpetuating an issue in which GOP reformers are cross-wise with a growing segment of voters.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.