So, look, I know you’re all getting tired of my blog posts on Rubio, but please put up with one more, before I move on to New and Exciting Non-Election Blog Content, coming your way shortly. (Though this weekend is pretty full with family commitments.)
Here’s the trouble: if you look at current immigration policy positions — without evaluating the credibility of the candidates espousing them — I line up with Rubio’s enforcement-first, legalization-second approach, at least more in broad outlines, to a greater degree than any of the other candidates. Cruz’s “deport them all, period” is preposterous, and Trump’s “deport ’em all and let the good ones come back” is even more foolish (why expend all that energy only to allow them back in afterwards?). Kasich keeps suggesting that he wants a guest worker program on top of amnesty. For good measure, Sanders is all about amnesty, and immigration expansion, and only reluctantly concedes any sort of enforcement at all. To be honest, I haven’t looked at Clinton, but I believe she’s pretty much identical to Sanders on this point.
Why am I OK with a (limited) legalization program?
Like it or not, politicians have spent so many years announcing that illegals were welcome as long as they didn’t cause trouble (“jobs Americans won’t do”), and have allowed them to establish lives here by their refusal to enforce immigration laws, so that it really would be unjust to now implement a deportation program. Or, rather, any such deportation program should not include in its scope those who have been here for a significant number of years, have learned English, and have become part of the community. The laborer who arrived recently, knows no English, lives in a flophouse, and sends wages back to family back home, has no grounds for claiming that it’s unjust to send him back.
But this is again an issue of trust, of credibility. Questions about Rubio’s authenticity on this matter are hard to set aside when his entire narrative for why he’s come around to an enforcement-first approach are that “it’s what the American people want”, and when he’s squirrely about the exact nature of his subsequent-to-enforcement legalization program, and when he’s pretty much said that the enforcement won’t touch existing illegals, only new arrivals.
Is Donald Trump pro-life? Beats me. But he at least took the trouble to come up with a conversion story. As I recall, it has something to do with someone he knew, who had what pro-life folk call a “crisis pregnancy,” but whose child turned out to be very successful. Not the most inspiring story, but he’s got a narrative.
Rubio needs a converstion story on immigration, a way to communicate to voters that enforcement-first is something he genuinely believes in, rather than something he reluctantly accepts as politically expedient. He can use the age-old device of telling folksy stories of people he supposedly “met on the campaign trail,” anecdotes about exactly those workers who were turned down at Trump’s guest-worker-using hotel, for instance, or former poultry-processing workers who were displaced by immigrants working for lower wages, or the former Disney worker who testified before Congress about training his replacement. He can use the fact that even the new arrivals from Central America are not being sent back, and that even the plans to send a hundred-odd back produced protests, as the last straw that made him realize that it’s not about “the American people” not trusting enforcement but the government not deserving that trust. I don’t really care exactly what he says, but he has to say something.
Would that be enough? God only knows. Watching Trump at the debate yesterday, even having read repeatedly explanations for his success, it still astonishes me that he has supporters, when he makes such preposterous claims. He’s going to solve the budget deficit by cutting “waste, fraud, and abuse.” He’s going to solve healthcare exclusively by enabling cross-state insurance purchases, and “taking care” of those who would otherwise “die in the streets.” By sheer force of will, he’ll bring back jobs to the U.S. Support him and “America is going to start winning again, and it’ll be great.” Yes, I know that there are people who support him just to show their emnity to The Establishment, but, Good Lord, even Cruz is a better choice if you hate The Establishment, isn’t he?