Friday, August 24, 2007

Debating Sanctuary Cities

Kimberly Strassel's Friday Wall Street Journal essays are among my current favorites in mainstream press commentary. Her article this week is a disappointment, however.

Like the newspaper for which she writes, Strassel leans toward open borders advocacy. In her piece, she's critical of the debate erupting between Mitt Romney and Rudy Giulilani over illegal alien sanctuary cities, and she argues that the Republican Party risks alienating Hispanic voters, perhaps for decades:

A vocal Republican minority is demanding tough talk on an issue that has inflamed its passions for most of this year. Who are these two front-runners to refuse? Immigration gives them an easy way to talk up their security credentials, while simultaneously keeping the conversation away from thornier questions about social issues, or Mormonism, or unsupportive children. It also allows them to distinguish themselves from that dastardly immigration reformer, John McCain.

Unfortunately for their party, what neither man can do is keep the rest of America from listening. And for every base Republican who is gratified by talk of ID cards and border patrols, there's an entire family of Hispanic immigrants who are absorbing the mean language of "sanctuary cities," "lawbreakers" and "deportation." Many of these folks are religious, entrepreneurial, and true believers in the American dream; as such, they're the biggest new voting potential the Republican Party has seen in ages. But a growing number, just like those Catholics of yore, are angered by the recent rhetoric and wondering why they should pull a lever for any party that would go out of its way to tag their community as the source of America's problems.
I've written here many times that the great strength of the United States is our assimilationist culture and robust diversity. Yet, for the life of me I cannot understand how analysts can dismiss people's legitimate unhappiness with the breakdown of law and order on the issue of immigration.

Out of pragmatism, I supported the comprehensive immigration reform bill moving through Congress earlier this year. That support put me at odds with most partisans in the GOP base. But the idea of sanctuary cities goes against our reputation as a nation of laws, and I think it's an issue that just makes people mad. Strassel's wrong about this one: The sanctuary controversy is a debate the GOP presidential hopefuls want to raise.

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