Rand Paul’s Pathway to Sellout

Rand Paul constructs his Pathway to Sellout on Immigration: Rand Paul on Fox

“Right now we have 11 million people in the country who are said to be here illegally. Well, if you do nothing, you’ll get 11 million more. So I think having no immigration reform is a non-starter. We need immigration reform.”

Hmm. Marco Rubio said that without “comprehensive immigration reform” we’d have “de facto amnesty” — that was his transparent attempt to bamboozle anti-amnesty types while pushing a bill that offered near-immediate legalization. Rubio couldn’t claim that without his amnesty bill we’d “get 11 million more” since the official line of many comprehensivists was that the borders were already secure (and also that Latin America had run out of potential immigrants).

Paul is admitting, in effect, that this party line is BS. The borders aren’t secure. O.K.! So why not secure them (with E-Verify, a fence, and a visa-tracking system)? Why pretend that the only way to secure them (and prevent “11 million more”) is with a “reform” bill that also almost certainly includes an amnesty plus a dramatic increase in guestworkers?** You wouldn’t make the first part contingent on the second part unless your real goal was to sell the GOP base the second part. Like talk of “de facto amnesty” or “back taxes,” Paul’s ‘doing nothing = 11 million more’ pitch should be a reverse dog whistle alerting border-control types that a politician is not their friend.

Paul’s path to sellout is all too clear: if he waters down the “secure the border” condition enough, he eventually he winds up with legislation that only promises a secure border in the future in exchange for amnesty and guestworkers today.  That was essentially the deal that failed in 1986 (because once illegal immigrants got their legalization their lobby worked to undercut the enforcement). It was the deal embodied in the “Gang of Eight” bill in the last Congress (which Paul voted against).

You can’t help but feel that this is the direction Paul would like to go — he proposed a mass amnesty early in 2013, and — most tellingly — he participated in a pro-“reform” stunt with Amnesty-First zealot Grover Norquist (hilariously mistimed on the day after Eric Cantor’s defeat by an anti-amnesty Republican).  Paul opposes a key enforcement tool, the E-Verify program for checking the legality of employees when they are hired. And he seems positively enthusiastic about the prospect of additional guestworkers. ***

Yes, if Paul is untrustworthy on the issue it doesn’t really set him apart from Scott Walker, Rubio, or Ted Cruz (the other conspicuous alternatives to the passionately pro-amnesty Jeb). The best Republican voters can do, in this situation, may be to secure clear, specific, high-profile promises**** that will restrict an untrustworthy candidate’s ability to backslide should any of them actually be elected. There’s a whole campaign left to do that.

But Paul would appear to have the furthest to go. Where Walker comes off like a pro-open-borders politician trying desperately to sell-in to GOP the grassroots’ pro-enforcement preferences, Paul seems like a grassroots politician itching to go the other way.

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** — Paul might argue that a big guestworker program would provide a legal avenue for foreign workers and stanch the flow of illlegals. This seems hard to jibe with his claim that “11 million more” will come if we do nothing. Suppose we instead have a giant guestworker program legally importing, say, 5 million workers. Are the other 6 million just going to stay home in Oaxaca, figuring “Hey, they let in some people from around here so I don’t care about finding work in the U.S. anymore”? It seems likely they’ll come illegally as they would have before — maybe more likely, if others from the neighborhood are now already in El Norte as guestworkers. And that’s before those 5 million guestworkers decide to overstay their visas, bring their families, and wait for the next amnesty.

*** — Paul’s also left himself a pathway to not sell out — he says he wants “do to little bits of what are doable and what really people believe in,” which might be effective enforcement measures, or might be millions more high and low-skilled visas.

**** — It would have to be way more specific than “I will secure the border first” — or “I will require ‘Congress to write and enforce a border security blueprint.'”