You won’t find me getting terribly agitated about immigration reform either way – I think it’s the right thing to do, but I don’t see it as much of an opportunity to gain Hispanic-vote share, and I suspect the economists’ forecasted golden eggs will turn up some rotten ones, too. But even though I’m a firmly right-of-center Republican, I’m an easy sell as you’re likely to find on immigration. Just sell me like I know you know how: Security first, then regularization. Predictable stuff. I won’t even wince at amnesty, if you insist.
But give me a fence first. It’s got to be a fence. And it’s got to come first.
A fence has a distinct metaphysical advantage over all other proposals on offer: A fence simply is. It can’t be turned off or defunded, and it doesn’t change its enforcement policy with each new administration. And as the GOP has learned through prior humiliations, if the fence isn’t built first, it isn’t built ever.
Again, easy stuff.
And yet GOP leaders have shrinked away from the fence. Worse, they are doing so quietly, without letting their constituents know they’re not interested in building a fence. Here’s a portion of an interview of Congressman Lou Barletta on Hugh Hewitt’s show last week, after repeatedly refusing to commit to building a fence and instead offering platitudes like “operational control,” “occupational control,” and “at the heart of border security is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” (well, not really that last one):
HH: The reason people are screaming, Congressman, the reason people are screaming is when Congresspeople get asked specific questions about the fence, they don’t answer them. They don’t say you betcha, I’m not voting for a bill that doesn’t have a fence in it.
LB: I’m looking for a bill that will secure America’s borders, and that’s airports, seaports, and land entries. I’m not just focusing on one area and saying that’s good enough for me. Hugh, I understand that people can come into this country illegally from the south, from the north, and from airports and seaports. And whatever we have to do, I’m supporting. I’m one of the first people that said listen, unless we secure our borders, all borders, including airports and seaports, I’m not voting for anything else.
HH: But Congressman, when people hear you say that, I honestly don’t know that Republicans get that. They don’t hear anything you say. They hear you not saying fence. They don’t believe Republicans who say border security, operational control, seaports, visas, because it’s all viewed as an extended way of avoiding saying I will vote for a fence, we will get it built. For whatever reason, Republicans will not say what their supporters want them to say, which is we will build the fence.
I can’t figure it out. Don’t want to build the fence? Ok, then say so. But all the Orwellian talk about metrics design and occupational control and stakeholders – Hewitt is right: all people hear is a legislator not saying “fence.” Legislators who used to not only talk about building a fence, but building a “danged fence.”
It’s just a little weird, is all.