The Right View on Immigration

The state of the GOP candidates’ race for their party’s
nomination for the presidency has finally entered a substantive phase. After the disaster which was the CNBC debate, where the moderators asked what amounted to caricatures of questions, the Fox Business Network provided a mirror image for the rest of the media to see exactly how flawed the CNBC approach was.

While the main confrontation on the debate stage was between Senators Rand Paul and Marco Rubio about the latter’s tax plan and funding of the military, it didn’t carry over because of Paul’s relative irrelevance in the race. But in the days that followed, Texas Senator Ted Cruz sought to distance himself from Rubio on immigration, drawing a contrast between Rubio’s plan for “amnesty” and his own.

While the polls don’t reflect this at the current juncture, it’s commonly understood that the race will come down to Cruz and Rubio, with Rubio holding the inside track to the nomination. Cruz needs to distinguish himself to convince voters he’s a better choice than Rubio, and immigration seemed like a perfect issue to base this effort on.

The only problem is that Rubio’s team is good at this. After Cruz went on the attack, Rubio told media at a press conference that he was “puzzled and quite frankly surprised by Ted’s attacks, since Ted’s position on immigration is not much different” from his own. In fact, he continued, “everybody running for president on the Republican side in one way or shape supports some form or fashion of legalization of people who are living in this country illegally,” including Ted Cruz.

This is true. When the now infamous “Gang of Eight” bill was brought up in the Senate, Senator Cruz sought to strip the “path to citizenship” and replace it with temporary legal status, with eventual permanent legal status coming once the border was secure so as to preclude any more need for a future “amnesty.” And while he now insists that the amendment was just a ploy, he still won’t explicitly rule out legal status for those already here.

Since he won’t, it’s pretty clear why.

Cruz needs to win the nomination, and he can only do that by siphoning off votes from Donald Trump. He can only do that by taking a hard line on immigration, convincing Trump backers that he’s a better choice. Admitting that he favors some sort of amnesty would likely convince them to stick with The Donald.

Furthermore, winning the nomination isn’t the endgame. Cruz knows he needs to be able to win more than just the nomination, and having some sort of legalization as his, the hardline GOP, position, coupled with his being both Hispanic and a son of an immigrant (and an excellent debater), means that Hillary won’t be able to attack him that hard on this issue.

He just can’t admit it yet.

But who has a position that makes more sense here? Is it Rubio, with his path to citizenship, or Cruz, with his more nuanced plan? Perhaps it is the president (and Hillary as well, in following in his footsteps) who wants to do something which is tantamount to throwing out borders entirely?

Many Jews believe that our history demands of us that we take a position that is pro-immigrant. I agree with this. What I reject is the notion that the pro-immigrant position is the one which is dictated to us by far left activist groups — which would be out of business if there were no “crisis” with immigration. What I don’t understand either is why there’s some sort of entitlement to government benefits and citizenship for people who knowingly came here illegally.

That being said, it should surprise nobody if I say that I believe the Cruz position on how to deal with immigration is most in concert with our values. We should care about the people who are here by giving those among them who aren’t a threat to us (meaning those who haven’t been convicted of a crime) permanent legalization eventually. But not more. There is no reason for that.

Not only that, but it is in their own best interests as well. In last week’s parashah, when Avimelech approached Yitzchak Avinu to make a treaty after ­chasing him out of G’rar, he says (Bereishis 26:29), “Atah atah b’ruch Hashem — now you are blessed by Hashem.” The Beis Halevi explains that Avimelech was making a political statement. He told Yitzchak that had he stayed in G’rar, where people were envious and had enmity toward him, he would not have been able to realize the same success he attained after he had left. So he tried to take credit for Yitzchak’s success by attributing it to his having banished him from his lands.

While Avimelech was without a doubt being disingenuous in his “political” argument to Yitzchak Avinu, the argument he made was true. It doesn’t serve immigrants well to double down on a system that leads to people having negative feelings about them, no matter how wrong and immoral those feelings are. What serves them well would be to stop the system from relegating them to second-class status — something which will continue unless the security issue is solved, and makes it possible to resolve the status of those already here.

Not doing that doesn’t just not help them; it hurts them.