The Republicans’ Perry problem and a new trend-Conservatives embrace illegal immigration


Texas Governor Rick Perry’s blessing and curse is he’s George W. Bush’s protege.

If you liked the cowboy boots on W., you’ll love them on Perry. He’s got real dung on those Tony Llamas.

On the other hand, if you regret eight years of deceitful leadership under an intellectually-challenged W., you’ll absolutely dread four years of Perry.

It’s dumb and dumber, GOP-style.

What’s a Republican party to do? Call on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. But Christie still says “no,” even as he plans a speech for Tuesday at a place far, far from Jersey–the Ronald Reagan library in California. Maybe he’s waiting to lose twenty pounds. He’s not saying.

Still, it’s odd that many big money Republicans can’t find anyone they think can beat Barack Obama.

They may find that the best moderate Republican to emerge so far is–as many on the left have surmised–Barack Obama.

Even more interesting is how a different kind of hot button has emerged among Republicans nationwide: illegal immigration.

On this point, Perry is actually an immigration ally, a stand that’s not particularly endearing to his rabid xenophobic base. At last week’s Fox News debate, Perry defended a Texas law he signed that gives tuition breaks for undocumented immigrants.

It’s Texas’ version of the Dream Act, the kind of legislation that on a federal level couldn’t get past a bloc of Republicans virulently against any support for undocumented immigrants. (House Republicans led the charge to defeat the Dream Act by a 216-198 vote.)

As Perry said in the debate, if you can’t bring yourself to help these folks, “I don’t think you have a heart.”

Of course, if any of them commits a capital crime against a Texan, you know what Perry will do to them.

His is a selective heart.

But Perry’s answer has given GOP party chairs around the country pause, if not cardiac arrest. In the GOP, what’s developing is a battle between the xenophobes vs. the realists.

And who’s leading the charge for a more realistic approach? Why it’s the Wall Street Journal, that not quite National Review, not quite Weekly Standard, mainstream view of conservative politics, at least on its editorial pages. This weekend’s lead editorial, “The Illegal Immigration Collapse,” flat out embraces illegal immigrants in the way conservatives rarely do in public.

It’s a coming out of sorts.

It’s one thing for conservative free-market thinkers like the late William F. Buckley to embrace “open borders” policies. But this editorial plainly concedes illegal immigration is not as big a deal as it was in the past. The current stats from the Department of Homeland Security show there are fewer illegal immigrants coming to the U.S.–the lowest level in 40 years.

The Journal says it’s due to the poor economy. If we don’t build it, they won’t come. And they’re not.

The paper says that the U.S. isn’t very attractive to newcomers in general, and cites the Census Bureau finding that the only time the U.S. had more people leaving than arriving in America was the Great Depression. “This is not a period to emulate,” the paper writes. “We’d gladly take faster growth with more illegal immigration over slower growth and fewer illegals.” (emphasis added)

Gladly? Really?

When I read that I couldn’t believe my eyes. What’s next? Conservative support for affirmative action? A scathing editorial against Scalia and Thomas? Be still, my heart.

The Journal suggests immigration reforms to allow more legal avenues to the U.S. They don’t mention amnesty or any number of real reform ideas blocked by the GOP in the last few years. But let’s hope the party, its rabid anti-immigrant base, and all of its favorite talk-show ventors take heed. This could be a real turning point.

An immigration debate based less on vitriol and more on economic reality would be a welcome change from the standard GOP hard-line that heretofore has lacked not just compassion but good sense.

At the very least, there’s a real wedge issue that drives the Republicans crazy. Perhaps, it’s even a new litmus test to separate the true xenophobes from the acceptably racist.

And all this due to a heartfelt answer from the front-runner nobody loves, Rick Perry.

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
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