I am increasingly of the opinion, for reasons of political survival, that the President and his coterie of GOP pragmatists should pull the plug on this immigration offensive, retreat and regroup. Notwithstanding, there are serious perils in that strategy.

What frustrates me most about the immigration debate:

We (America) have a serious problem, which we are not addressing. Instead, we (conservatives) are having an internecine bloodletting in which too many of the most severe national challenges are obscured by pernicious abstractions. Although it is in our power to come up with something workable, I fear that we are more likely to do nothing, perpetuating the status quo that brought us our current crisis, beating ourselves into critical condition in the process.


1. We have full employment in the United States of America. We also have millions of illegal undocumented immigrants in our country laboring and contributing to the economy. If we could find a way to erase those millions of workers, our economy would surely suffer.

An aside: I say "if" because I am skeptical of our ability to track these folks down and remove them, but, more significantly, I am certain that we don't have the will, even if there were a way.

Undoubtedly, Mexican immigration (illegal and otherwise) drives down wages. However, no Americans who want to work are displaced by immigrants. Americans who want to go to school to train (or retrain) for better opportunities are not blocked in that pursuit as a result of immigrants.

2. There are jobs Americans won't do. Any person who quibbles with that truism is a demagogue. Granted, the emotionally charged statement points to a major social problem: Too many Americans no longer believe in the dignity of labor.

But McCain is right: there are not many white, black or brown Americans who will pick lettuce in the hot South Texas sun for twelve hours a day, six days a week to scratch out a meager living. Most of us would starve rather than clean other people's toilets. Teenagers no longer get summer jobs hauling hay, working on the highway or mowing lawns. College kids don't bus tables anymore. The Puritan work ethic is long gone as an essential component of the American ethos.

Again, this observation points up a dangerous cultural weakness (completely distinct from the immigration crisis), which should be addressed. I concede, however, that our current system of immigration seriously contributes to this worrisome national condition. If any anti-illegal-immigrant advocates addressed this loss of work ethic, they would have my full attention. But no one is willing to take on this taboo subject. This simple fact of modern American life is a vital moral issue that we serially ignore.

3. Stop with the Slogans. Secure the border? Sure. Of course. Let's go ahead and balance the budget and win the war in Iraq, as long as we're tossing down bromides.

Fences and armed forces patrolling the border in itself will not solve our problems. Even if we could build a twenty-foot fence the length of the border, we would still need to deal with the millions of illegal (and much more relevant, undocumented) aliens living and working in America. We would need to set up a system that faced the realities of a changing marketplace, holding employers to account without driving them out of business with mindless regulations based upon unrealistic expectations. We need a comprehensive solution (admittedly a slogan) that includes border security as a necessary component.

Also, we ought to be realistic about "amnesty." Amnesty is necessary. The problem is not amnesty. The problem is enforcement of a workable plan.

...to be continued.