Herman Cain’s most memorable quote on immigration, to his misfortune, is “It will be a twenty foot wall, barbed wire, electrified on the top, and on this side of the fence, I’ll have that moat that President Obama talked about.” It is sad to see a candidate’s views on immigration pigeonholed into one seemingly bigoted statement when he has perhaps one of the most poignant aphorisms I’ve heard from a political candidate in some time: “It turns out that America can be a nation with high fences and wide open doors. That’s what built this nation. So we can have high fences and wide open doors all at the same time.” The Republican Party needs to lose the stigma of being the anti-immigration party and embrace this motto.
The first step for the GOP should be to push for an open door immigration policy — preferably a policy that resembles the old immigration standards of Ellis Island: All healthy and reputable people are allowed to enter into the country. Essentially, if a person can pass a basic physical and has absolutely no criminal record, they should be granted legal passage across the border. The clean criminal record needs no explanation, and passing a physical ensures that people do not immediately check into hospitals upon arrival into this country.
Not everyone can be granted immediate citizenship, since that would place an unsustainable burden on our current welfare system. Instead, allow for a five-year work visa that allows the immigrant and their family to legally work and attend school (at in-state tuition rates). During that five-year period, the family would not be granted any access to welfare or voting rights, but certain safety nets like Medicaid, disability benefits and perhaps limited access to food stamps would be available during this time. The family would be self-sustaining for that time. This ensures that all immigrant families would be contributing members of society, and if they cannot make it in America, they can simply return home.
One doesn’t need to listen to Fox News for too long before hearing conservatives complain about immigrants taking their jobs, but this fear seems to be blown out of proportion. Apart from the classic response that immigrants take jobs Americans do not want, which is a partial truth, there are other factors to consider. First, there is a black market for labor, and many employers exploit undocumented workers who will often be hired below minimum wage. By making the path to legal immigration easier, the amount of illegal immigrants will drop drastically, causing the supply of cheap labor to disappear, and therefore potentially raising the overall wages for everyone in many fields such as construction. Furthermore, immigrants can help combat outsourcing — a much bigger cause of job loss — by creating a supply of non-unionized workers that will make certain manufacturing jobs once again profitable on American soil. It is conceivable that increased immigration can actually increase our gross domestic product and as a whole grow the economy so that everyone has a better economic future.
Having open doors, even with all of their benefits, is only half of the equation. We cannot forget the serious issue of drug trafficking and its accompanying violence from the southern border. For our national defense, it is necessary to protect this border.
The solution can be a simple as building more fences and increasing the amount of troops guarding the border. Unfortunately, building fences has a negative connotation — many liberals portray them as a symbol of heartlessly keeping immigrants out of the country. If these fences are solely used for the purpose of keeping out drugs and violent cartels, since immigrants no longer need to sneak into the country, the fences become a lot less controversial, and expanding them enough so that they are effective becomes much easier.
Unfortunately, the GOP has been one of the biggest antagonists to any potential immigration reform. It has repeatedly shot down even tame reform bills such as the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which does nothing to help its image with the Hispanic community. Unfortunately, this is the worst voter group for the Republican Party to disparage.
Apart from being the fastest-growing voter demographic in the US, the Hispanic community is influential in many border states (such as Florida and New Mexico) and represents a large part of the most populous state, California. If the GOP embraced immigration reform, it could conceivably win all of these states in any given election.
The Hispanic population naturally fits in better with Republican ideals than it does Democratic ones to begin with. Most Hispanics are religious (particularly Catholic), and their religious values are in accordance with core conservative values. Furthermore, Hispanics are more likely to favor the economic views of the GOP since they often hate communism and do not necessarily value a large welfare state, but instead seem to embrace the Protestant work ethic. The only thing that turns them off from the GOP is its stance on immigration — after all, it is hard to vote for the politicians who want to arrest and deport your relatives.
If conservative candidates embrace a lenient immigration policy, they could capture a majority of the Hispanic vote and turn deep blue states such as California and border states like Florida into Republican strongholds. With those two states firmly in the hands of the Republican Party, it would take a Herculean effort the part of any liberal candidate to win the White House.
But the Republican Party seems content on perpetuating its image as gun-slinging, fear-mongering bigots who are more concerned with making sure everything is written in English than letting America return to its roots as a nation that is willing to accept those tired, poor, huddled masses.