It's easy and tiresome to trash Sarah Palin as an uneducated embarrassment to the Republican Party (a party of which I am a member). But when the great anti-intellectual takes ridiculously simple-minded shots at Marco Rubio for supporting immigration reform, something needs to be said.
The Sunshine State News asked the former Alaska governor to comment on immigration reform. She took the opportunity to take a giant swing at Marco Rubio:
Just like they did with ObamaCare, some in Congress intend to "Pelosi" the amnesty bill. They'll pass it in order to find out what's in it. And just like the unpopular, unaffordable ObamaCare disaster, this pandering, rewarding-the-rule-breakers, still-no-border-security, special-interests-ridden, 24-pound disaster of a bill is not supported by informed Americans. [Sunshine State News]
Let's take this particular pearl of vapid nonsense sentence by sentence. Right off the bat, Palin manages to set forth two incompatible premises in the same sentence. Her reference to "some in Congress" is clearly a shot at the Republicans looking to push the bill through, the most prominent being a young Tea Party star named Marco Rubio. Yet in taking that shot, Palin makes clear that immigration reform is not at all like ObamaCare in that ObamaCare was defined by the complete and total absence of bipartisan compromise, even during the negotiation phase. Immigration reform was heavily shaped by Republicans and is going to pass (assuming it passes) with multiple Republican votes.
Palin then claims that immigration reform is like ObamaCare because it is expensive. CBO actually disagrees with Palin on this particular point. Last week, CBO released its finding that if Senate Bill 744 were enacted, changes in direct spending and revenues "would decrease federal budget deficits by $197 billion over the 2014-2023 period." Now, there are genuine quibbles over the long-term deficit impact of permitting citizenship, but the notion that only liberal economists are pushing for immigration reform is, well, incorrect. Palin may never have heard of him, but Douglas Holtz Eakin is a conservative economist of unimpeachable credentials (among other things, he headed CBO during the Bush administration). He absolutely shredded CBO's work relating to ObamaCare. But on immigration reform, he is decidedly more bullish. So much for Palin's economic critique.
What about special interests? Like all bills, interested parties are vigorously participating. That alone tells us nothing. But unlike ObamaCare, the business community is firmly behind immigration reform. The Chamber of Commerce, for one, is bankrolling a massive ad campaign in support of reform. Being Republicans, we theoretically support free markets, so it is difficult to see why we would want to deny the business community the opportunity to hire laborers who go through the process of becoming citizens, especially given that we want to create jobs. The way that happens is to create the conditions to allow businesses to thrive.
And then there's Palin's kicker: illegality. On this, it is difficult to dispute the basic premise underlying the assertion. Tens of millions of people living in America right now are doing so in direct violation of immigration laws. And it's not good. But it was William F. Buckley who placed the issue of illegality in the proper context when, writing in National Review in December 2004, he stated that "we have a piquant problem of what to do with illegals" that "approaches the problem of what to do with drinkers during Prohibition…You couldn't put them all in jail because there were not enough jails." It is now 2013, the problem has only gotten worse, and there are still not enough jails. So what does Palin propose that we do? Round them up and ship them home? Good luck with that…
In that same 2004 column, Buckley acknowledged that immigration was remarkably tough politically, but he nevertheless urged Congress to "bear down on the subject, intimately related to homeland security." Buckley's observation raises yet another reason why it is so important that we pass immigration reform: When you have no practicable system in place, as is the case now, you have to improvise one. Which brings us to our final point: Contrary to Palin's obviously uninformed statement to the contrary, the new immigration bill explicitly conditions the issuance of green cards on the implementation of tougher border security measures. In other words, no "amnesty" until our situation at the border is resolved.
Immigration is a remarkably thorny issue for the GOP politically, but the time has come to cope with reality. Illegal immigrants are here, they are not leaving, and our border is not secure. If we can get our border secure in exchange for creating a path to citizenship…and if creating that path will help our businesses grow our economy, it is a trade well worth making.