The Wall Alone Isn’t Going To End The Illegal Immigration Debate

I’m a big fan of Hugh Hewitt, but I think this theory he’s been plugging for quite a while about a wall being the key to ending the illegal immigration debate has already been proven wrong:

“If the GOP avoids plainly inequitable proposals such as the grant of social security benefits for the wages earned while illegally in the country or a path to citizenship for those who do not return first to their home countries, the comprehensive legislation can be worked out quickly.

And it should be, but the construction of the fence is a very big deal. It is a symbol of seriousness about border security, and also a symbol or responsiveness to the demands of the electorate. The fencing is something the voters want to see done, and done soon. Their demand was met rhetorically, and now it has to be fulfilled in reality.

I think many Republicans fail to understand just how significant the fence is, and of the crucial necessity that the Administration get it underway and soon. There should be a point man or woman at DHS –accountable to Secretary Chertoff– and a very public, very transparent accounting of where the fence is going and how much has been constructed. Delays due to excessive planning will be interpreted as feet-dragging, and a bait-and-switch in the making.

Advocates of regularization should recognize this dynamic as well. If the fence goes up and genuine border security emerges, the public will support rational regularization. But if Democrats attempt to spike the fence or the Administration attempts to pass off 100 miles as a down payment on 700, the issue will flare again. “Virtual” fencing gets zero credit from the public. They have been promised the real deal, and seeing will be believing.

If the Administration cannot get a few hundred miles of double fencing in place in a matter of months, it will invite the sort of withering and constant criticism from the anti-illegal immigration absolutists that will drain support from a comprehensive approach.”

In other words, build the fence and the people opposed to comprehensive illegal immigration will give in.

Well, first off, they’ve already agreed to build a fence although ominously, the Democrats are going to revisit the issue. Yet, there hasn’t been any drop off that I can see in the number of people opposed to the Senate’s Amnesty plan.

Secondly, because of legal issues that will inevitably pop-up, it seems highly unlikely that the fence will be complete by the time Bush is out of office. In fact, given the past history of building sections of fence along the border, it wouldn’t be a surprise if it took a decade or more to complete the fence. So, even if you’re under the impression that getting the fence built will end the debate, that’s not going to happen any time soon.

Last but not least, while the fence is an important piece of illegal immigration, amnesty is the real divisive point. Everybody at least CLAIMS that they want to secure the border, although to tell you the truth, I don’t believe the Democrats or Bush are serious about it, but the one thing that people like Tom Tancredo and the Wall Street Journal crowd aren’t going to give up on is the fight over whether illegal aliens who are already here will be rewarded for breaking the law with amnesty and citizenship.

The WSJ and Company want these people to stay here so they can keep working for companies that buy their ads. Democrats want them to stay here so that they can become citizens and vote for the Democrats. Conservatives who are serious about illegal immigration want them gone because they don’t think they should be rewarded for breaking the law and because they realize that an amnesty today will only lead to more illegal aliens pouring into our country later in hopes of getting in on the next amnesty.

So, how do you bridge that gap? You probably don’t. The people who are serious about illegal immigration are never going to go willingly along with that under any circumstances. On the other hand, the WSJ Crowd and Democrats MIGHT cave on it if it’s the only way to get a guest worker program with citizenship (In other words, no illegals who are here will be allowed to stay here, but guest workers from out of country can sign up and eventually, after leaping over enough hurdles, get a chance at citizenship).

Of course, we’re not to the point where the pro-amnesty crowd would consider that yet and the only way we can get there would be if the Republicans in Congress can manage to block the McCain/Kennedy/Bush bill from passage. If that happens and the impasse remains in place long enough, the tough on illegal immigration crowd can still win (but, given that the GOP has lost the House, it’s unknown whether that’s possible or not at this point).

But, either way, the illegal immigration issue is still going to continue to split the GOP, wall or no wall.

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