Sen. Rubio Attempts to Lead on Immigration

Deal W. Hudson

Published May 14, 2013

Last week I signed, with several dozen other “conservatives,” a letter supporting the immigration legislation supported by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

My decision to sign was motivated, in part, by the ridiculous attacks on Sen. Rubio, such as that of the venerable National Review, which was once the flagship of the conservative movement.

It is now apparently trying to win back an audience by replacing the mellifluous voice of Bill Buckley with the screechiness of Glen Beck wannabes. (How sad — this was the magazine my Great Aunt Lucile Morley of Austin, TX made sure was delivered to my post box for decades starting at age 15.)

Sen. Rubio’s effort is right and just on every level.

It is right politically; if the GOP loses the Hispanic vote it won’t win another national election for a century. It is right philosophically; if the United States, if “America,” stands for anything it is the willingness to receive, if not always to welcome, the immigrant (more on this later).

It is right legally; the presence of millions of undocumented immigrants – and a ridiculously porous border with Mexico – requires legislative action that will start, however slowly, to document those who deserve it and bring stability to our borders.

That Senator Rubio has become part of a bi-partisan group should not, in itself, become an invitation to mock his effort. How else can any legislation pass in a divided Congress? As we said in our letter:

“This legislation is not perfect….We are encouraged by the starting point that Senator Rubio and his Republican colleagues have gotten leading liberals in the Senate to agree to. We believe they are working in good faith to improve the bill, and we support a fair, open, and transparent legislative process. We ask that conservatives in the Senate work to improve the legislation. America needs immigration reform.”

As a Catholic, I might be accused of simply following the dictates of the U.S. Catholic bishops on this issue, who have long, and vigorously, campaigned for immigration reform. As a matter of fact, I have been a critic of their stated rationale for reform, in spite of my support for reform going back to the sulphuric debates of 2005.

The Catholic bishops have yet to explain satisfactorily how the “right” of an immigrant in search of his or her economic good completely trumps the “right” of a nation to protect its borders and citizens.

The Catholic view, as most often stated by the USCCB, may seem to some to make the immigrant’s struggle to sneak across our border some sort of heroic, spiritual exercise. This is an argument which has not helped the cause of immigration reform among many Catholic voters.

For the record, I think a thoroughly Catholic argument for immigration reform can be made without creating a briar patch of conflicting arguments about rights.

The legislation supported by Sen. Rubio does not give the Catholic bishops all they want, at least those who have controlled the public argument. But it provides a bi-partisan starting point. As we point out:

“The immigration bill being taken up in the Senate is an important starting point in the effort to improve what even those opposed to the bill agree is a failed and broken system. The bill includes triggers to insure border security and interior security before any immigrant is given permanent legal status. It includes a guest worker program that moves us toward a merit-based system.”

Senator Rubio has taken the lead in the immigration debate by doing the right thing and deciding not to care about the whining right.
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