By Joe Guzzardi
September 6, 2011
For decades, Republican Party candidates’ campaigns purposely avoided including immigration as one of their platform’s pivotal issues. To the befuddlement of its supporters, the GOP always danced along the edge by calling for border enforcement and pretending to oppose amnesty.
But in the end, as evidenced by President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain, the Republicans and the Democrats had the same immigration agenda. Influenced by what they wrongly believe to be the crucial Hispanic vote, both parties advocated for amnesty and more entitlements for illegal immigrants.
During the 2010 mid-term elections, however, Republicans more aggressively supported major immigration policy changes that emphasized more enforcement. Refreshingly, candidates urged mandatory E-Verify to assure that only legally authorized workers hold jobs, promoted ending automatic birthright citizenship and encouraged implementing programs like 287 (g) that will help ICE train state and local police to identify, process, and when appropriate, detain immigration offenders. Republican voters took heart. The GOP gained five and 63 seats respectively in the Senate and House as well as adding 6 new governorships.
The 2010 results prove that immigration enforcement and advocating for less immigration resonates with voters. Yet the major candidates haven’t taken advantage of one of their best opportunities to unseat President Obama. None have mentioned Obama’s administrative amnesty which he sprung on an outraged public last month. They should eagerly pounce on it at every chance.
In a nutshell, the Republicans have given Obama a free pass on his outrageous and unconstitutional decision to remove from deportation proceedings up to 300,000 illegal aliens. With a wave of his hand, Obama has granted a reprieve to what his administration refers to as “low priority” illegal immigrants. That broad definition includes college age students, pregnant women, nursing mothers or individuals with family ties—a category that would include almost everyone.
The Republican misguided immigration avoidance strategy has Texas Governor Rick Perry in its grip. Perry, who many believe is the front runner, skipped a South Carolina delegation invitation to avoid a possible confrontation with Iowa’s U.S. Representative Steve King. To his detriment, Perry tediously and foolishly embraces the same failed immigration philosophies as Bush once did. Perry’s pandering statements include his observation that he doesn’t support a border fence (too expensive and ultimately ineffective), favors a guest worker program (despite persistent 9 percent unemployment) and thinks a federal DREAM Act is a great idea (even though Congress has defeated it every time that it came up for a vote during the last decade).
Perry may be committing political suicide. Now is the hour for Republicans to go for Obama’s jugular. According to the latest Wall Street Journal poll, Obama’s job approval rating has sunk to a low of 44 percent, a 3-point drop since July. His handling of the economy stands at 37 percent, his all time low. And only 19 percent believe the country is headed in the right direction.
Whichever Republican candidate gets the August 2012 nomination needs to understand that on immigration, Republicans can’t campaign on the equal footing of or to the Democrats left. Efforts to do so have historically failed.
Republicans must recognize their opportunities and attack Obama’s weaknesses. A platform that emphasizes enforcing immigration laws is a winner that vulnerable Democrats can’t rebut.
Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns, mostly about immigration and related social issues, since 1986. He is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and his columns are syndicated in various U.S. newspapers and websites. Contact him at [email protected]