It is going to be a long 2016 presidential election cycle for anti-immigration-reform activists. First, former Florida governor Jeb Bush said we should recognize the humanity of those who came here to seek a better life, and then Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) echoed the sentiment, merely editing for style. Here’s Paul’s exchange with ABC’s Jonathan Karl:
KARL: So I’m sure you saw Jeb Bush’s comments on immigration. He talked about how we shouldn’t let the immigration issue rile people up and that, uh, for — for many illegal immigrants who came into this country, it was an act of love.
KARL: Do you agree with him on this?
PAUL: You know, I think he might have been more artful, maybe, in the way he presented this. But I don’t, uh, want to say, oh, he’s terrible for saying this. If it were me, what I would have said is, people who seek the American dream are not bad people. However . . .
KARL: — even if they came into this country . . .
PAUL: — well, then . . .
KARL: — illegally?
PAUL: — but here’s the way I’d finish up with. They are not bad people. However, we can’t invite the whole world. When you say they’re doing an act of love and you don’t follow it up with ‘but we have to control the border,’ people think, well, because they’re doing this for kind reasons, that the whole world can come to our country.
I saw a survey that said 700 million people would move to America if they could. We can’t really absorb 700 million people, nor can we absorb even tens of millions of people.
So we do have to have some controlled access to our country.
But the sentiment that if you came here looking for the American dream, I agree with it, you are not a bad person, but it doesn’t mean the invitation can be open to everyone.
KARL: Well, there’s also a suggestion that Republicans in — in previous campaigns have vilified those who came over illegally . . .
PAUL: And some people perceive it that way. And that’s a perception we do have to change. That’s why I say it the way I did, if you want to seek the American dream, you’re not a bad person. But it doesn’t mean we can have open borders. And I think his statement, while I don’t think that was his intent, that’s what people on the right took out of this is oh, my goodness, is he saying because you love people in Mexico, they can all come?
PAUL: You know, so there have to be rules and I was big on saying I’m for immigration reform, but you have to secure the border first and you have to make sure that we’re not offering the welfare state to those who come, we’re offering work, but we’re not offering, really, voting or the welfare state.
What we’re offering is a chance to work in our country. And then there will be an orderly process for immigration, but it cannot be open borders and it can’t be uncontrolled.
Another “amnesty” apologist! There was not the immediate freak-out by immigration-reform opponents like that following Jeb Bush’s comments because, truth be told, the anti-immigration voices aren’t very consistent (they detest Jeb Bush more than Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Rubio more than Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), although they have similar views). Perhaps the anti-immigration-reform forces suspect Rand Paul is simply paying lip service to immigration reform; after all when the chips were down, he voted against the Senate immigration-reform bill. (On the other hand, his views are even more radical in some respects than Bush’s since Paul opposes measures such as e-Verify on libertarian grounds.)
Aside from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), the anti-immigration-reform advocates will have a tough time finding a standard-bearer in 2016 for the self-deportation solution they hooted and hollered for in 2012. When you go down the list — Rubio, Ryan and GOP governors Rick Perry (Texas), Chris Christie (New Jersey) and Scott Walker (Wisconsin) — all have spoken favorably about some sort of immigration reform. The debates probably will feature arguments about the pro-growth aspects of immigration reform, the “moral imperative” of immigration reform and the unworkability of rounding up millions and booting them out of the country.
For a party that has done a bang-up job offending Hispanics and other ethnic minorities, the debates might sound like a tribute to the diversity of America, the relevance of the American dream and the role immigrants play in revitalizing the American experience and economy. What a living hell it will be for the anti-immigration-reform types.