Open Borders Booed at CPAC
By Phil Kent
panel at the annual three-day Conservative Political Action
Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C., always ignites the
most fireworks. This year's event at the Ronald Reagan International
Trade Center, attended by over 4,000 activists, was no exception.
In fact, with the 2004 election behind them, it seems many
conservatives are angrier than ever over President George
W. Bush's proposed guestworker/amnesty proposal.
The president, for the uninitiated, proposed (for the second
time in a year) that illegal immigrants could apply for "temporary
worker status" for up to six years, getting many of the
benefits of citizenship ranging from a driver's license to
Social Security checks. To facilitate this, Bush is asking
Congress to hike the number of legal green cards for immigrants
each year - yet he never specified how many millions would
be needed. Incredibly, Bush at one point said these "temporary"
workers could apply for citizenship "in the normal way."
(Of course, then they wouldn't be "temporary.")
Finally, the Bush plan would allow these workers to bring
their entire families with them for the duration of their
work permits, no doubt producing more "American"
anchor babies in the process.
CPAC attendees - at least half estimated to be under 25 years
of age - heard from four panelists on the touchy immigration
issue: Eagle Forum president Phyllis Schlafly, a heroine of
the modern conservative/populist movement; sharp-tongued Tamar
Jacoby, senior fellow of the open-borders Manhattan Institute;
Roy Beck, affable head of the Washington-based NumbersUSA;
and libertarian Stephen Moore, founder of the Club for Growth
and now the head of The Free Enterprise Fund. Yours truly,
representing the Monterey, Va.-based Americans for Immigration
Control, served as the panel moderator.
My opening statement reminded everyone of a fundamental American
principle: "Uphold the rule of law." I noted the
bipartisan acceptance of so-called "multiculturalism"
to excuse the lack of enforcement of immigration laws already
on the books. I recited numbers: Over one million illegal
aliens sneaking across our borders every year; over one million
legal immigrants (mostly from the Third World) pouring in;
and over a half-million babies born to foreigners on U.S.
soil annually. I quoted the Center for Immigration Studies
that there could be over 15 million illegals now in the U.S.
I noted the tremendous strain this invasion has on taxpayers
- and hoped panelists would touch not only on the numbers
and their impact but on the issue of services being granted
to illegals ranging from drivers' licenses to in-state college
tuition breaks. Then there was a big question for panelists
to address: "Is this so-called "cheap labor"
Schlafly, whose first book A Choice Not an Echo became
an instant best-seller in the 1960s, took six minutes to articulately
cite chapter and verse as to why the president's amnesty plan
is so expensive and dangerous to our economy and culture.
She said that state and local police, of whom we have at least
670,000, should be the first line of defense against criminals
("not the minuscule 2,000 federal investigators assigned
to immigration enforcement," as she put it.). But "local
police are being shackled by city officials." Schlafly
praised those members of Congress bucking their own leadership
to push legislation to bring these law enforcers into the
She also noted a growing number of cities have adopted "sanctuary"
ordinances banning police from asking people about their immigration
status unless they are suspected of committing a felony, are
a threat to national security or have been previously deported.
"But how are the police going to know if they have previously
been deported unless they first ascertain who they are?"
She drew audible gasps from the crowed by pointing out that
any newly-minted "temporary" workers under the Bush
plan also qualify for Social Security benefits if a "totalization"
agreement with Mexico passes congressional muster. That would
swiftly bankrupt the system the president claims he is trying
Jacoby spoke next and boldly declared, "I support the
president's guest worker program." The response? A torrent
of booing and shouts of "no" - much to the shock
of her badly outnumbered supporters. I couldn't help but notice
that many of those 20-something College Republicans in the
audience were very vocal leaders of the, uh, displeasure.
Jacoby- a former deputy editor of The New York Times
editorial page and author of a book titled Someone Else's
House: America's Unfinished Struggle for Integration -
insisted that more cheap labor really is necessary. She repeated
the mantra that the influx of foreign workers are only taking
jobs Americans didn't want. (Schlafly and Beck immediately
fired back on these points after the question-and-answer period
Interestingly, Jacoby reinforced her CPAC speech a week later
with an essay in the neo-conservative Weekly Standard
. It is amazingly subtitled: "Immigration and Law: The
Conservative Case for Bush's Immigration Plan." (Question:
What qualifies Jacoby to even label herself a "conservative"?)
She began her piece by reciting the frustrating story of an
Arizona border agent who criticizes "all the apprehensions
of Mexicans" as "a waste of time and resources."
She writes that this agent shrugs, "They're just poor
people trying to feed their families." So her main essay
theme, which she unveiled at CPAC, is that our homeland security
agents are "too busy chasing a busboy or gardener"
and may miss "catching terrorists."
In her essay, Jacoby proposes that "we face up to our
growing demand for labor, both skilled and unskilled."
She gushes, "The White House has nailed down the all-important
central principle: If we raise our quotas to make them more
commensurate with the existing flow of foreign workers, we
can reap the benefits of immigration without the illegality
that currently comes with it."
She concludes in the Standard that "the Bush plan
is the only (emphasis added) way to restore the rule of law,
either on the border or in our communities."
After Jacoby's CPAC remarks, the normally mild-mannered Beck
came alive. "America doesn't need any more foreign workers,"
he flatly declared, and then proceeded to excoriate both illegals
and legals as "wage thieves." The NumbersUSA guru
cited the number of unemployed American workers (from high-tech
to low-skilled) who need jobs- and noted that America's poor
people would be getting a pay raise if illegal and legal immigration
was significantly lowered.
By far the least prepared panelist was Moore. After seeing
the hostility Jacoby received, Moore cleverly proceeded to
praise Schlafly as someone he admired while "disagreeing"
with her on this issue. (There were audible groans in the
audience - mainly from those feisty College Republicans.)
After telling stories that had nothing to do with immigration,
Moore trotted out (as he usually does in his speeches) the
semi-clever line that "we shouldn't put a 'closed' sign
on the Statue of Liberty." Yet he never got up enough
nerve to endorse the Bush guest worker plan. He even took
pains to conclude his remarks by saying Congress "shouldn't
approve any amnesty." If Jacoby was looking for help
that day from Moore, she didn't get much.
The questions were mainly directed to Schlafly and Jacoby.
The Eagle Forum founder was as articulate at CPAC as she ever
was during her 1970s salad days when she helped defeat the
so-called Equal Rights Amendment. She bluntly rebuked Jacoby
for being consistently wrong - again to cheers - and pointed
out that Congress must show backbone by rejecting the Bush
plan and passing its own tough immigration reforms, including
giving more authority to those 670,000 local law enforcers
she talked about earlier.
The panel was finished. But as I reflect on this year's CPAC,
there was a curious footnote that I leave for Middle American
News readers to analyze. Former U.S. House of Representatives
Speaker Newt Gingrich was tapped to speak during another time
slot to plug his latest book. The Georgian, basking in speculation
that he might be a 2008 GOP presidential contender, has rarely
spoken about immigration since his days in the 1980s as a
congressional backbencher. Yet his immigration remarks - inserted
at the end of his speech - appeared to have been written by
Pat Buchanan or the late Sam Francis.
Gingrich brought an applauding crowd to its feet by shouting
that America should muster the resources and will so that
"every illegal immigrant could be deported within 48
hours." He added that Congress should pass a law that
there would be "no judicial redress" to deportations.
And he declared that "every foreigner entering this country
must be ID-ed."
Whether the former speaker really means what he says is open
to debate. But the astute Gingrich obviously senses the immigration
issue is getting the public's attention - so he's finally
talking tough about it. Jacoby and her open borders disciples
were clearly out of sync at the CPAC conclave - a milestone
that would have been improbable five years ago.