Hayworth-Nadler, Closer than it seems -- immigration and the GOP
By Warner Todd Huston
I had the occasion at the Conservative Leadership Conference in Reno during the second week of October to interview both men in separate interviews, asking them similar questions in order to compare and contrast their positions. What I came away with was that, once stripped of the element of personal pique, the two men were surprisingly close on their thoughts and ideas on the issue of illegal immigration. It turns out they just weren't that far apart after all.
Not to be insulting to either Nadler or Hayworth, this little fracas is remarkably like a revenge of the nerds against the jocks. Nadler, stoop shouldered, furtive and lugging an over stuffed leather valise, greeted me with a peevish grin when we first met. As we spoke in the entryway of the meeting hall in preparation for the interview, he paced, deep in thought, passionately relating his points and ideas to me. I felt like I was watching a university professor presenting a lecture. I also got the feeling that Nadler expected to be roughly treated by everyone he came across at this conservative gathering because he feared that our "homeboys," as he put it, were not too keen on hearing about policies that comforted Hispanics. On the other hand, Hayworth was a force of nature. Tall, commanding, well tanned, not lacking for any passion himself, and, like the consummate politician he is, always mindful to use your name in conversation. Hayworth is the very picture of the ex-jock, Nadler the ex-nerd. I couldn't help but to get the vague feeling that Nadler derived a bit of a thrill from taking on the big guy as a wry smile constantly stole across his face as we talked.
Still, it's the issues that matter here and at first it seemed that the two were as widely separated in their positions on those issues as they are in physical appearance with those positions themselves being at the extremes of the spectrum within the conservative viewpoint. Nadler appears to be an open boarder economist type and, in Rovian fashion, ready to bend principle to any measure that will get the Hispanic vote and assure the GOP a seat at the table of power for the foreseeable future.
Hayworth appears to be a raging nativist, anti-immigrant advocate who has no problem throwing away the very power Nadler wishes to cement in place if it means stopping "them" from getting into the country.
But the bluster of these two with their feud masks how close they are on the same issues they claim to be so far separated by and a closer, more dispassionate, examination of their positions proves that the assumptions of their extreme stances is an exaggeration of reality. In fact, both of them offer extremely important points on the border, immigration and voting patterns that we all need to consider so that we might form effective, conservative immigration policy.
I asked them both for opening statements at the top of my interviews to set the table with the points they felt were most important at the time. Nadler was my first interview and he began with:
"Basically the stance that the conservative movement has taken towards immigration is rather like a man who would slit his wrists and then run a victory lap as he bleeds out on the pavement. Unless we pay some attention to the moral and economic claims of illegal aliens we are going to lose the Hispanic vote which is the fastest growing vote in the United States and with it the presidency and any possibility of governing for the next 25 years."
I have to say, his warning is pertinent to the future and if we can figure a way to capture that Hispanic vote without turning our back on our principles we must do so.
Hayworth's opening was more confrontational. He felt a personal affront from Nadler's Wall Street Journal musings, but it should be remembered that Nadler's reply to Hayworth had appeared in the pages of the Journal in a Letter to the Editor only hours earlier on that very morning so the matter was hot with him, to say the least. But Hayworth's fears that we are, indeed, in danger of throwing away our principles just to get that Hispanic vote is also a trenchant point.
"In the speech that we just completed here at the Conservative Leadership Conference I was saying if you think that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, think again. For a guy out of office, supposedly bereft of ideas to be featured in the Wall Street Journal not once, not twice, but thrice in the last two weeks shows that our message of national security and border security, ah, the American people get it and sadly the malefactors of great wealth — or as we might say with the Fred Travalena game show of the 1980's, the anything for money crowd — is desperately trying to change people's minds. But the American people are having none of it."
This set the table for what promised to be a discussion between two men miles apart one from the other. And, at least at the beginning, it seemed to offer just that. Hayworth attacked Nadler for being a "paid professional scholar" who might be disingenuous in his methods and Nadler intimated that Hayworth was planning the "deporting, starving" or the persecution of "massive numbers" of illegal Mexican immigrants. It seemed the slings and arrows were to be loosed freely.
Now, one thing has to be said here. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, "We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done." In this case, one can perhaps find a bit of skepticism with some of what both Hayworth and Nadler said in these interviews when contrasted with their past stances.
For instance, Hayworth accuses Nadler of being an open borders type who does not care about our sovereignty or the integrity of the border and that cheap labor is all he is interested in. If one were to judge by what he's "already done," and by his own admission, Nadler was an open borders type in the past. He claims, however, that 9/11 changed that for him. He is now a believer in building the fence and in making sure we know who is coming into the country. Of course, this — if we can take Nadler at face value — is exactly where Hayworth stands.
For his part, Hayworth has been labeled with the deport-them-all viewpoint and, if one views the evidence from his book (Whatever It Takes, Regnery Publishing, 2006), one might be excused for thinking so. As Hayworth told me in Reno, in his book he says, "…two illegals, one is a buss boy the other is a hijacker. And I wrote the buss boy should be deported and the hijacker should be shot." However, he also disclaimed this deport-them-all policy seconds later in that same interview, saying, "Now, I don't call for mass deportation and guess what happens once you start enforcing the law? People start obeying the law." And, it turns out that Nadler feels that Hispanics tend to agree with Hayworth on enforcing the law. "You can advocate for more border patrol, for more fence, for more electronic surveillance, for expedited deportation of people who do violent crimes," without losing the Hispanic vote, according to Nadler.
So, the chief arguments that the two have against each other don't seem to pan out taking them at their word. Nadler is no open borders type and Hayworth is no advocate for mass deportation. As the interviews rolled on things came closer together still. It turns out that both men lamented practically the same things.
Nadler laments that the rule of law has broken down with the Federal government not enforcing our immigration laws. "But in effect," Nadler told me, "you have had a break down of law over twenty five years involving vast sectors of the population, not just the immigrants themselves, not just the illegals but the people who employ them… and also the people who voted the people in office who haven't enforced the laws…" Hayworth basically said the same thing with, "Enforce the law. And for all those who say, ‘Oh, it won't work,' how do ya know? We've never even tried it."
They do differ on the results of Reagan's 1986 Amnesty. Hayworth feels that the Reagan effort just posted a sign at our borders that says "enter here" while Nadler points to how our Gross National Product has gone up 184% since 1986, which proves to him that it couldn't have hurt us too badly.
But, here is the core issue in how we as Americans justify our future policy and assuage our consciences that what we are doing is right, I think. With both men, I mentioned that it might be considered a moral issue to suddenly attempt to deport every illegal living here. To turn on a dime and suddenly say that, after allowing them untrammeled immigration for the last three decades, they now have to leave all at once just doesn't seem right, just doesn't seem neighborly, or moral.
With them both I used this analogy: if you toddle off to the store and drop your quarter in the dirt, is it the dirt's fault for stealing your quarter or is it yours for losing it? We, the United States, are at fault for allowing our laws to be broken with barely a voice raised for decades. In essence we lost our own quarter in the dirt. It's awfully hard to justify a sudden get-tough policy on Hispanics who weren't opposed for coming here just because we finally got spine enough to belatedly
Nadler's point was that we needed a "reset" for our laws since they have for so long slumbered, forgotten. "…when you've had a lot of people breaking a lot of laws for a long time, you've gotta have a reset," he said. No deportations for Nadler. He'd rather again give amnesty to those already here before we make any other move.
Hayworth, on the other hand, felt that the laws should be enforced again first, before any other solution is brought into the discussion. "I think you are going to see people leave the country by attrition when they realize we're going to enforce the law," he believed, adding, "It does not mean mass deportation." He detailed why he thinks that will work saying, "… post 9/11 the forerunner of ICE actually got off its bureaucratic duff in the wake of 9/11 and started checking on people who had overstayed their visas. Do you know what happened in a relatively brief period of time? Thousands of Pakistanis who were in the United States illegally because they had overstayed their visas… left the country…" Hayworth said this proves that enforcing the laws would work. "Now, if it works there, imagine what happens nationwide when you actually show you're willing to enforce the laws," he concluded.
But, both men are right here. Hayworth is correct in saying that we must take control of the border while Nadler is right that we just cannot be so mean spirited as to attempt to deport them all, despite the screaming mimis of talk radio. It's both a rule of law and a moral issue of not saddling others for our own failings. Yes they broke the law, but WE let them do it for almost three decades. We, the citizens of the United States, are just as guilty in this case. We share the blame for allowing this to get so badly out of control. And, please, let's get some perspective here. Being an illegal immigrant is not the same kind of lawless behavior as, say, murder! It just doesn't rise to that level of evil so let's stop acting as if it does. And, let's not elevate illegal immigrants to the level of terrorists.
Speaking of terror, there is one great area where the two men permanently part company on over the border. Hayworth worries that a wide-open border is an advertisement to every terrorist in the world that coming here is as easy as walking from Mexico to the US. Nadler, however, feels that, while it is important to have a monitored border, no self respecting "trained terrorist" would bother risking the financial burdens and the physical danger of crossing the border when all he has to do is get an easily faked visa, fly here, and then just disappear into the American interior, ignoring his requirements to abide by the visa.
Nadler discounts this terrorist crossing the border issue. "Is it worrisome? Sure it's worrisome. But the point is, why on earth is a trained terrorist, maybe from one of the Afghan camps, or the Pakistan Madrassas or whatever, wanting to do harm to the United States, why wouldn't you get yourself a nice fake Saudi passport or something and tour the Grand Canyon and just miss your plane. Or why wouldn't you get yourself a nice student visa to enter the nuclear program at MIT. In other words, they get in legally because there is so much more legal commerce than there is illegal. And the illegal is nothing, it does nothing… it's a pain in the butt, you know, you're paying two thousand five hundred bucks — that's more than the airline ticket and the passport — to a coyote who's a sleazy guy, you stick out like a sore thumb, and then you gotta tromp through a desert that kills about two hundred and fifty people a year… no professional terrorist in his right mind does that. So, it is a security issue but it's very, very low on the list."
Hayworth worries about it far more. "You know, just last week amidst great fanfare, the White House announced al-Qaida is redoubling its efforts to slip into the United States. Well, how do you think they're coming?" Of course he had an answer, "We have unguarded borders. You don't have to be a paid political scholar, cherry picking data to understand the clear and present danger and that is what so disappoints and concerns the American people."
He's right that the American people are worried about it, to be sure. But, Nadler has an important point. The Bush administration announced not long ago that they would allow another 10,000 Middle Eastern men (mostly Saudis) into this country on student visas. Why walk through a desert when all you have to do is take a legal visa and come here with the U.S. government's blessing? We don't need to worry about an open border as a back door when we are inviting them to come in the front door.
Upon reflection, the opposing concerns over where terrorists are coming from between Nadler and Hayworth seem immaterial because both men still want that border closed. That shared agenda makes arguing over the issue somewhat superfluous, clouding the issue and causing argument where harmony exists on the matter. What difference does it make if terrorists are coming across the border if both men want the border closed and monitored?
Terrorism isn't the only border issue, of course. There is also the cultural issue to contend with. Now, certainly we need to safeguard our culture and this massive influx of illegal immigrants does present a danger of diluting our culture and this is also a thing both men agree with. But, assuming that the illegals' influence causes dilution only to our culture is not as axiomatic as it seems and ignores the reciprocating dilution of our culture on their foreign culture upon entering here. I live among many Mexican immigrant families in my Chicago suburb and I see the kids of these immigrants being just as American in their outlook as my own kids. Many of these kids of Mexican immigrants don't even want to go back to Mexico for a visit, much less get all excited about emulating Mexican culture here. Many of them were born here or came here as very small children and the American culture of McDonalds, Rap music, TV and Hollywood movies are just as powerful a factor in diluting their Mexicaness as their imported Mexican culture might dilute our Americanness. I'll take soccer if it means making these kids of Mexican immigrants just as American as any other citizen.
Further there is a cure for this cultural dilution. As it occurred, both men agreed with the point that we must teach American exceptionalism in our schools and stop this PC madness as a stopgap toward acculturating these kids of immigrants. I asked each of them how Mexicanness could be replaced by Americanness if they aren't even taught why America is a great nation? But, this particular failing isn't peculiar to acculturating the children of immigrants because natural born American kids are just as clueless to our principles as anyone else thanks to the nearly universal failure of our schools to teach anything but the test scores for No Child Left Behind and PC gobbledygook. Nadler and Hayworth heartily agreed with my points here. Again they were on the same track.
Both Nadler and Hayworth also seem to agree that, as conservatives, we need an enlightened immigration policy, not one built on pique and not one built on an open border obliteration of our national sovereignty, but one that acknowledges our own culpability in the failure to enforce our laws just as it reminds foreigners that they must now abide by those laws.
After all, we have already seen that enforcing those laws will reduce illegal immigration. Along with Hayworth's 9/11 point, recently The New York Times published an article claiming that "remittances," — a ridiculous euphemism for U.S. dollars sent home to Mexico by illegal workers here in America — are down because of illegal immigrant crackdowns. Also that the wave of illegals could be thinning because many are hearing that these crackdowns will make it too hard for them to find jobs once here or to stay here long without being caught and deported. As Hayworth predicted, enforcing the laws works.
Both men also agreed that a more effective policy for imported workers is called for. Hayworth wants to retool our H1B visa program to get the best and brightest "those who can contribute to our way of life in the United States." And Nadler wants to talk of a guest worker program to control the flow of needed workers. These are sensible and necessary policy ideas.
As the interviews ended I came to realize that these two articulate, passionate men were not as far apart as they themselves imagined. What it came down to was that Nadler was for the same policies for border security as Hayworth and all he wanted to do was try to find a way to sugar coat that pill so that the Hispanic community could more easily swallow it and still pull that GOP lever in the voting booth. Hayworth was less for the song and dance but not really much opposed to anything substantive that Nadler wanted for an the end game.
As Nadler closed he exhorted conservatives to be mindful of the Hispanic vote while keeping policy in view. "I would simply appeal to my fellow conservatives to try to achieve some kind of balance," he began. "There's no need whatsoever to sacrifice the desire, in fact the need, for better border security, for the fence, for more agents, for expedited deportation for violent criminals. But do not make this the single guiding obsession of your life to the point that you sacrifice the Hispanic vote going onward. We did this with the black vote some time ago and now we start each election with basically a minus twelve point five percent, if we do this with Hispanics also we are not going to b able to govern for the next twenty five years."
And Hayworth warned, "Immigration is a part of America's fabric. But immigration should be lawful and we should approach immigration from an enlightened point of view. Instead of huddled masses we need talented people who can contribute to the American dream."
Both men are right. And we need to carefully heed their proscriptions and combine them to make those enlightened polices. It's not only right to gain votes out of it, but it is morally right to do. Unfortunately, this sniping obscures the issues and does a disservice to us all.
(To hear the audio and to read the entire transcripts of the Hayworth and Nadler interviews go to www.PubliusForum.com.)
Warner Todd Huston is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.