Immigration Reform: Not Easy, But it is Simple

By enacting just two basic -- albeit politically difficult measures -- neither of which are possible with the current president and Senate, our massive and emotionally charged illegal immigration problem would largely take care of itself within a few years. Not only that, but a laser focus on these two steps could codify the conservative/Republican position around principles we all agree on, and would leave the messier areas of our disagreements to a more appropriate time.

The low hanging fruit -- the crux of this matter -- is truly far simpler than we are making it, while some other hypotheticals are far more complex than most are willing to acknowledge. Labor and deportation nuances are inherently intertwined with issues like welfare, food stamps, unemployment compensation, law-enforcement logistics, and even workers comp, and are the result of supply and demand and human nature colliding with a porous border for about six decades. I'll get to all of this in a minute, and the relevance will become clear.

First, the two uncomplicated steps are to secure the border and stop government handouts. (Thankfully the focus on a border-first message is growing by the day.) If we could do but those two things, this massive issue would unravel over a few years almost seamlessly -- and never again consume as much energy, anger or government funding as it does now. The full-fledged takers would be motivated to leave the country quickly, and new takers would not be incentivized to get in. This alone would reduce budgeting burdens tremendously. As a result, progress throughout the economy would proceed at a quick pace, and a lot of anger would be calmed.

When you align policy with human nature, instead of trying to swim upstream with an army of bureaucrats, it's amazing what will take care of itself.

Moreover, all conservatives agree on these. Such coherence and clarity of focus would sharpen the tip of our political spear, simplify our message, and increase our chances of political success in 2014 and 2016 -- thereby increasing chances of legislative and policy success thereafter. The political success must come first however, as nothing good can be passed with Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and Barack Obama in the way. (A truth that somehow escapes the likes of Lindsay Graham, Marco Rubio, and John Boehner.)

Yet to fully comprehend the simple magic of this formula, both politically and pragmatically, an understanding of why we are where we are economically is imperative. This reality might anger you, but it is real just the same.

First on the pragmatic level, we are where we are due to the immutable laws of human nature, along with supply and demand, as they have played out daily for some sixty years, not because some dry-wall contractor wants a bigger profit margin. We are here because for decades, government policies have distorted our entire economic/labor supply chain -- and citizens merely were reacting in their own best interests at every level. This includes businesses, vendors, suppliers, contractors, and customers -- including middle and end users. We are also here because government has made it lucrative to sit at home and live off the dole. Studies have shown that it's possible to live a 60-thousand-dollar lifestyle by taking maximum advantage of handouts. Please tell me how we can fill 20-30-40-thousand-dollar a year job niches when you can knock down 60 sitting on your duff. The market tells us in no uncertain terms that we can't. Yet we need those niches filled -- you need them filled.

Frank's Lawn Service and Bob's Custom Homes are not perverting the market by hiring immigrants any more than you are by demanding low prices and good products and services from Frank and Bob. It's policies that allow for 99 weeks of unemployment, easy access to EBT cards, free phones, fluffy government union contracts, subsidized housing and a porous border that have made the labor market what it is today. Our own government has shredded that market and artificially made it more expensive at the same time. E-verify hasn't been around long enough, and is not good enough, to impact where we are today -- and you need to understand that the illegals have paperwork identical to that the legals have.

So I don't blame Frank or Bob any more than I blame you for contracting Frank and Bob -- even though you probably knew damned good and well what's might be going on with their labor. So do all of Frank and Bob's vendors, suppliers, bankers, accountants, competitors, and other customers by the way.

All are equally guilty -- which is to say -- not guilty at all.

Just don't separate yourself from Frank and Bob. Economies are not vacuums, and everything is imbedded and impacts everything else. We rightly accuse liberals of not understanding this, yet some conservatives disregard it too on this issue.

The guilty party is government, period! You and me, and Frank and Bob, are just trying to get by day by day, living with market realities none of us created, and watching our business or family budget -- as we should. Moreover, it's hypocritical to hold businesses and their customers, many of whom struggle, to standards in hiring that are way beyond what government holds itself to -- as it ironically gives away tax money paid by those same businesses and customers. The place to start e-verify is at the welfare office, not the janitorial company. If you start it at the business level, the illegals who are working will just jump to the welfare line.

And if you are angered by what you just read -- or even disagree -- your consternation simply reinforces my main thesis: which is that we must focus politically on the non-negotiable and not debatable principles we do agree on: Securing the border first and a common sense second step of removing the most insidious of the artificial incentives -- the handouts. These could be sold to the voters. These could be part of a winning campaign. And while these steps might be moonshot difficult, they are not out of the question after 2016 -- but only if we win the next two cycles.

In the 2012 primary season, we saw an intramural food fight erupt as three candidates who live 1200 miles away from Mexico lectured the governor of a state with 1200 miles of Mexican border -- and we saw him stumble to reply. Why? They were all four buried in hypothetical minutia.The result was nothing coherent from the GOP on immigration as part of that campaign. It was all so meaningless and needless.

All our side needs to point out is that just these two actions, plus just a few years of human nature running its natural course, would lead to a far smaller problem and a much improved country, economy and culture by definition. Such a message is understandable and sellable.

And within the confines of that improved economy, culture and country, we could then debate all kinds of deportation theories and labor procedures and guest-worker programs and e-verifications and penalties and so on -- not to mention the nuances of how welfare and EBT programs play into all of this. On the other hand, if we continue to major in minors and get ahead of ourselves, we'll never win another election, and we'll never have that improved economy, culture, and country. Democrats in power will never secure the border, and we all know that.

So go call Frank -- your lawn needs mowing. And don't sweat it -- it's not your fault, or Frank's, that young able-bodied and unemployed hipsters are at Whole Foods buying scallops using their EBT cards.

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