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April 27, 2006
Acting Presidential On Immigration

At least one Republican acts presidential on immigration by arguing for actual enforcement of existing law and creative thinking for long-term solutions. Unfortunately, that Republican does not currently live in the White House, but he may be building a case as the next occupant:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich yesterday said the government's failure to enforce immigration laws resembles its handling of Hurricane Katrina, and described current reform proposals in Congress as a "con."

Mr. Gingrich said he sympathizes with illegal aliens participating in protests and placed blame for the illegal immigration problem on businesses and the federal government.

"I do not blame someone who leaves poverty to seek prosperity," Mr. Gingrich said during a speech at the American Enterprise Institute. "They showed up here to work under a social contract and then [the government] tried to change the terms."

Gingrich has slowly rebuilt his political strength since dropping out of Congress rather ignominiously after a personal scandal and his failure to maintain the Republican Revolution. Once considered a partisan firebrand, Gingrich has spent most of his time out of office working with people across the aisle to build bipartisan proposals for Congress and bolster his credentials as a political analyst. Now he sees his opening for a return to political relevancy with immigration, an opportunity provided by the failure of GOP leadership to correctly assess the priorities of border security and its strange embrace of Amnesty Lite.

Gingrich takes the position that many of us hoped our President would support as chief executive -- enforcing the law and creating a credible and secure border. He doesn't support a full border barrier, but wants to put barriers in the high-traffic areas and deploy high-tech surveillance in the remaining gaps. I support that as an interim to building a complete barrier, but at least it provides a start.

He also includes a provocative plan for reform that enhances security while allowing for low-cost labor that businesses insist they need: privatization of worker visas. Gingrich says that government has proven that they cannot efficiently handle the visa process, and suggests that a company like American Express could create the necessary biometric identification system and supervise the program so that workers pay taxes and can be supervised to ensure compliance and security.

I'm not certain that approach will work. Putting businesses in charge of low-cost migrant labor sounds a bit like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. However, Gingrich has a point when he says that the feds have done a very poor job managing visas and that privatization and competition, properly managed, could get better results. At least he provides some original thinking and leadership on an issue that has provoked nothing but worn-out, rehashed proposals derived from all our previous failures by the leadership of both parties.

If Gingrich keeps this up, he may well argue himself right back into national politics again.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 27, 2006 6:51 AM

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