Republicans Acting Like Democrats on the Border

This presidential administration is so determined to build a border fence that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, with the authorization of Congress, is busy waiving more than thirty laws in order to see it built quickly. Republicans, in general, seem to favor a border fence. My question is, why?

Of course I’m well acquainted with the arguments, as I suspect you are, so I won’t address them in detail: maintaining our national culture, remaining a country which abides by the rule of law, ensuring procedural fairness vis-à-vis legal immigrants, and protecting American jobs. These are all principles supported by the Republican Party and conservatives alike. But I must admit, I’m still a little flummoxed.

It’s not that I don’t support those principles—I most certainly do. In fact, no one is more supportive of the maintenance of our American culture than I am, nor are you likely to find someone who takes a harder line on rule of law issues. Likewise, I believe that the immigrants who have come to America legally should reap the benefits of their actions and I have nothing but the greatest optimism about the state of the American job market when it is allowed to innovate and operate unencumbered by excessive regulation.

So where, you ask, is my problem? It’s the hypocrisy of the approach. Isn’t the Republican Party supposed to be party of small federal government? Isn’t the GOP supposed to be the party of personal responsibility and accountability? Aren’t Republicans likely to eschew a government solution to problems that can be fixed by personal behavior?

The answers to these questions are historically yes.

I’d like to reiterate two principles that I think ought to guide the behavior of the federal government. First, government should facilitate its citizens doing the right thing. Second, as Ronald Reagan liked to say, government should protect us from each other but not protect us from ourselves. Having said that, the immigration problem begins with us. We–individual families, small business owners, and corporations—have created a market for illegal immigrants by hiring them. Without the ability to work and earn in our country there would be little motivation to come to America. Taking the path of least resistance, some Americans have selfishly justified their own law breaking and illegal hiring practices and, in turn, created paradigms of labor availability for their businesses and job availability for those willing to immigrate illegally to the United States.

The government’s role in today’s illegal immigration problem is that it hasn’t previously done what it must do now—enforce the laws of our country. Asking the federal government to build a border fence is asking for more government, more regulation, and more expenditure. In short, it is the type of suggestion we would normally expect from Democrats.

Going forward, the federal government can help citizens do the right thing by putting America on notice that the laws of our country will be enforced. Critics claim that this is insensitive to the illegal immigrants who have established lives here in the US. This makes as much sense as saying that if the police discovered a family of thieves, they shouldn’t return the stolen TVs and stereos to the rightful owners because the thieves had become accustomed to having them. And since there have been no crimes since the original theft, we’ll skip prosecuting the perpetrators, too.

A border fence, at best, serves only to help protect us from ourselves by slowing a supply for which we created the demand–a role Republicans and conservatives usually don’t believe the federal government should be taking on. A border fence ignores the ingenuity of properly motivated foreigners and is unlikely to stop illegal immigration for any length of time. Only when the supply of jobs is cut will illegal immigration be curbed. At which point, a previously erected border fence becomes an unnecessary eyesore, a maintenance problem, and a monument to our own lack of self-control and imagination.

This issue has become a metaphor for the laments of those Republicans who understand that the GOP has become as much a proponent of big government solutions as the Democrats. The line between the parties has blurred and Americans are left with fewer and fewer real choices.

Republicans and conservatives, as well as many Democrats, value the aforementioned principles involved in the illegal immigration issue. Despite the validity of the competing principles here, Republicans don’t do themselves any favors by not standing up for the broader and more important principles that guide the party. The concepts of limited government and personal accountability and responsibility are the principles that should guide the policies the party pursues. Some will say, “the people have spoken” and the administration is just following the wishes of the people by building the border fence. When did the US stop being a republic? We’ve elected officials, in this case a Republican administration, to do what they think is best for the country. Instead, like beleaguered parents capitulating to the demands of a petulant child who cries to get what he wants, Republican leaders are creating a new generation of party members who don’t understand the fundamental beliefs of the party and who are growing increasingly dependent on government solutions.

We must do for ourselves what government can’t do for us: we must wean ourselves off the tendency to look to the federal government to solve our problems. The Republicans have hopped on board the good ship Largesse, but we don’t have to sail with them. It’s time, as in most issues these days, for us to claim our party back from those who have forgotten what it is Republicans and conservatives want from their party leadership; and on the issue of illegal immigration another federally funded, big government program is not the solution to a problem American citizens can solve all by ourselves.

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Published in: on May 9, 2008 at 9:47 am  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] 9, 2008 Click here for a new blog from Drexel Kleber, host of Kicking the […]

  2. Wow…now that is a different perspective. I think you are right. I think many Americans want the fence because they don’t believe that business owners will do what is right and stop hiring the illegals. Or that our elected officials will do their part in enforcing illegals.

    I am moving back to the northeast and when looking for help to load my truck it was suggested I hire Mexicans. (no doubt the possibility of hiring illegals would be high here in Phoenix). I chose to go a different route.

    It is time for America to get her backbone back and do what is right…not what feels right.

  3. You’ve laid out a great road map for the Utopian America we dream of. The reality is, our “Leadership” (be it Republican or Democrat) only hears the squeaking wheel. Only when the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill” slapped conservatives in the face did we make enough noise to get the attention of our “Representatives”. THEN, with a “we’ll show you”attitude, they jumped to the border fence building project that THEY had already passed in to law.
    Allow me this analogy. I live in the country. I enjoy watching wildlife and have put up feeders for different species. The feeders have been effective and my family enjoys all the labor that it took. Now, passers by begin to fill my yard and leave their McDonalds wrappers and cups in my yard. They even knock on my door to use my facilities. My family can no longer enjoy the fruits of OUR labors so I lock the gate and order “No Trespassing” signs. The signs are on back-order for a while so what do I do in the mean time??? I GUARD my property lines !!!!
    We have to take extreme measures, in the short term, to make extreme change for the long term!!! Demanding the fence was,no doubt. a grasp at straws for a drowning Republic but it was a necessary effort to claim the attention of those we elected to represent our values. “WE THE PEOPLE” includes ALL people who enjoy our liberties LEAGALLY !!! We can’t, however, endure the load “ILLEGAL” immigration places on this Country. The VALUE, you mentioned, of legal immigration is in-arguable. The reality is, too many ILLEGALimmigrants aren’r here to enhance our society but exploit our society.

  4. While the the main idea expressed in this blog makes a lot of sense to me, i must disagree with some of the smaller ideas.

    As a conservative, I must object to your use of the term as synonymous with “Republican.” There are many conservative ideals that the Republican party does not hold true (likewise, the Democrat party does not hold true many liberal tenets and endorses several conservative ideals – investment, for example), and as such, the way you group conservatives and Republicans together strikes me as incorrect.

    Secondly, I believe that the line between the two major parties has become thoroughly enhanced, not blurred. Everything about today’s politics is black-and-white (or rather, red-and-blue). If you believe in gay marriage rights, then you must also endorse tax hikes and strict gun control. If you are pro-life, then you must also support the war in Iraq and in favor of the border fence. The fact of the matter (and what so many people fail to see) is that many citizens (like myself) find their moral and/or religious beliefs conflicting with many party beliefs and so they pick and choose among them, creating someone who is, for example, liberal but not a Democrat.

    Aside from these semantics, your writing is excellent; you have achieved your goal – my mind is engaged!

  5. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Donne!!


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