I respect much of Grover Norquist’s work, but certain of his arguments in favor of comprehensive immigration reform are imbecilic. Consider his response to the concern that entitlement payments will skyrocket if such reform comes before the border is secure:
The idea of treating people as a liability — that more people coming in might go on welfare — that’s an argument against having babies, that’s an argument for car accidents, an argument for abortion. We ought to be in favor of people not getting killed in car accidents, not getting aborted, and immigrating to the United States — and reforming welfare. You don’t screw up your policies to fit a stupid government program. You reform the stupid government program.
But, of course, the odds of the average illegal immigrant winding up on welfare are vastly higher than the corresponding odds for the average person killed in a car accident or for the average unborn child. And the denial of entry into the U.S. is not the moral equivalent of terminating a pregancy or encouraging traffic fatalities.
Moreover, if we aren’t allowed to be concerned about the costs imposed by illegal immigrants, then under what principle can we oppose open borders? I doubt that Norquist favors open borders, although if the right business interests did, I suspect he might. But his illogical comparison of illegal immigrants to car accident victims and unborn children shows that he isn’t serious about border enforcement.
Norquist’s statement “you don’t screw up your policies to fit a stupid government program; you reform the stupid government program” is also mindless. First, requiring a secure border before moving to the next stage of immigration reform doesn’t constitute screwing up policy — unless one equates illegal immigrants to car accident victims and/or the unborn.
Second, Norquist provides no basis for believing that, as a matter of practical politics, welfare can be reformed to prevent the consequences that those skeptical about immigration reform fear. If anything, the eventual addition of, say, 10 million former illegal immigrants to the electorate — nearly all of are part of an underclass — will mean a more liberal welfare regime.
Finally, we should note Norquist’s not so subtle, and utterly unpersuasive, attempt to connect opponents of immigration reform to the pro-abortion movement. We have debunked this reprehensible slander several times.
Norquist’s arguments may be imbecilic, but he’s no imbecile. He knows that Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation is about to release an update to his 2007 report, which estimated that amnesty would cost taxpayers at least $2.6 trillion. That report was instrument in killing that year’s amnesty push.
Norquist will use any argument, no matter how illogical, to avoid a repeat. Indeed, as Mark Krikorian points out, Norquist and his crowd are already attacking Rector and the Heritage Foundation. Perhaps Jim DeMint and Ed Fuelner are about to be read out of the conservative movement by Norquist and some of his fellow pro-amnesty conservatives.
I have argued that creating a path to citizenship for millions of underclass illegals eventually will likely mean the demise of conservatism as we know it, because Republicans will no longer be able to win elections as a conservative party — already a difficult enough task thanks in part to past amnesty. But at the rate that Grover Norquist and folks associated with Marco Rubio are demonizing conservatives with whom they disagree, the conservative crack-up may occur much sooner than I thought.