Not all of the swift Republican current against immigration reform results from nativism -- there are understandable concerns among conservatives about extreme multiculturalism, the strains of illegal immigration on public services, and the numerous flaws of a complicated bill. But McCain has a mature appreciation of the paradox of immigration reform: A tighter border requires a more regular and orderly way for honest laborers to cross it. Controlling that border becomes difficult without a temporary worker system that allows us to distinguish drug dealers from lettuce pickers and hotel maids.
He also calls our attention to a serious immigration reform speech McCain delivered a couple of weeks ago. Here’s what Gerson had to say about it:
After recounting the arguments for reform, he mentioned Maria Hernandez Perez, nearly 2, with "thick brown hair and eyes the color of chocolate," and Kelia Velazquez-Gonzalez, 16, who "carried a Bible in her backpack." Both died terrible deaths in the Arizona desert.
For McCain, they were not "illegals," they were human beings, with names. "We can’t let immigrants break our laws with impunity," he said. "But these people are also God’s children who wanted simply to be Americans."
This is not moral exhibitionism; it is just morality. And my respect for McCain, it turns out, is less and less grudging.
I’m all for letting some of God’s children become Americans (though I’m not at all convinced that the business groups that support this bill care one whit about that). And I’m all for some way of getting a handle on the millions of folks who are here illegally. But no one has a good record of seriousness on border security. That’s the issue that has to be addressed first. Benchmarks focusing on inputs (and not outcomes; where is Margaret Spellings when you need her?) aren’t sufficient. Mere money won’t do it. I wish Gerson would turn his substantial intelligence to a consideration of how our leaders can regain the confidence of the American people on this issue. That’s so much more productive--as he has apparently discovered--than name-calling.