I have not written or spoken about illegal immigration much lately because I have not wanted to add fuel to a fire that has threatened to destroy our Party. But at the risk — no the certainty — of making both sides angry, I am going to tell you what I really think. It is my hope that this will provoke a look inward from all of us.
One of the reasons the Republican Party in Arizona, and nationally, is in such disarray is that when we disagree, we seem to have misplaced the capacity to assume good intentions about each other.
Nowhere has that been more obvious than the debate over illegal immigration. I have always supported a hard line against illegal immigration, and I opposed Congressional efforts over the past two years to enact comprehensive reform. I believe border security is a national security priority. I supported employer sanctions and voted against efforts to weaken Arizona’s current law.
But the people I agree with on the issue were wrong in their treatment of conservative Republicans who favored comprehensive reform. Republican Party officials have every right to call up elected officials and (1) scream bloody murder, and (2) let them know privately that they are getting angry calls and letters from the Party faithful. In fact, they have an obligation to do so. But party officials hurt their own cause when they launch public campaigns challenging elected officials of their own party.
For elected party officials to publicly accuse Jeff Flake, John Shadegg and Jon Kyl of being traitorous RINO’s is not only foolish, but nonsensical. These men and others have taken bullets for the conservative cause for decades, and have earned the respect of all conservatives. With that respect comes some deference. And the years spent by some party activists ridiculing and disparaging John McCain — a strong national security, pro-life, pro-gun, anti-pork barrel spending center-right politician — is part of the reason we will watch left-wing Democrats move into the White House on Tuesday.
So I agree with anti-immigration hard-liners on the issue. But I take issue with the foolish tactics used by some elected party officials, and think they have hurt our cause and our credibility. And at the root of these mistakes is the inability to accept the possibility that conservatives who favor comprehensive reform might be doing so because they genuinely believe (mistakenly in my view) that such reform is the best solution to a difficult problem.
The cowardly anonymous comments in some conservative blogs add fuel to the fire. If you can find six degrees of separation or less between your target and someone who favors comprehensive reform, then your target must also be a “cheap labor, illegal alien loving, amnesty-backing traitor.”
Republicans who favored comprehensive reform are not RINO’s or traitors. They are just wrong.
But in the same way, some in that camp have taken to arguing that any hardliners who are opposed to comprehensive reform must be Latino-hating racists.
This argument is corrosive, divisive and unfair. In any movement you will have fringe elements. But the vast majority of those who, like me, favor a tough approach to illegal immigration, are supportive of the Latino community and unalterably opposed to racism.
Need proof? Look at the response to President Bush’s decision to commute the sentences of two border patrol agents who were imprisoned for shooting a drug dealer at the border.
Leaders of the anti-illegal immigration effort have lobbied for these two agents for years, donating money, giving time, organizing petition drives and praying for their release and for their families.
And of course, both of the agents are Hispanic.
I am genuinely hopeful that these pardons, and the loss of the White House, will cause Republicans to again unite around our many common principles, and tone down the rhetoric and the questioning of each other’s motives.
Enough of accusations of racism. Enough of accusations of being traitorous, amnesty-loving RINO’s. Let’s try to disagree on the merits without impugning each other’s motives, so that we can effectively fight those on the Left with whom we disagree on so much more.
Here is an idea – maybe those who have attacked President Bush so harshly for his support of comprehensive reform could take a moment to send him a “thank you” note for the commutations. And maybe those who have trashed anti-illegal immigration activists as racists could take a moment to acknowledge the work of these activists to gain a commutation for two Hispanic Americans, and apologize for questioning their character.


  1. Good thoughts, Len. But to “…cause Republicans to again unite around our many common principles…” prompts a suggestion. We should unite not only around our common principles, but also around a principled leader. Maybe you?

  2. Well stated!
    I completely agree … I’m glad that somebody could state it so well.
    Hopefully it will be heard, absorbed and taken to heart.
    Thank You!

  3. Good Blog, Len – one of your best..
    thank you

  4. EXCELLENT! Thank you for the right on words but more so for your courage.

  5. Great post, Len!

  6. I’m glad someone has said this! All the squabbling and name calling has been making me crazy. This was very well said and I hope the people who need to hear it most will listen!!
    Thank you!

  7. Len, thanks so much for bringing up the issue of the tone of the immigration debate. It definitely needs to benefit from more light and suffer from less heat. We would benefit from having more dispassionate discourse regarding solutions beyond sealing our southern border (e.g., re: northern border, overstays, CIS bureaucracy, etc.)

  8. Thank you Len for saying this.
    I spent part of my career hearing the inside strategy of liberal immigration lawyers and one of their best tools is DELAY.
    Bureaucracy caused delay, congressional gridlock, underfunded and overtasked law enforcement agencies –they all result in a broken system which benefits liberal philosophical beliefs regarding the issue of immigration.
    What some in our party cannot see is that they are actually losing ground due to their rhetoric and at the same time alienating voters who have legally immigrated and are now citizens. These voters agree with a big chunk of the Republican platform, especially the socially conservative portions.

  9. In case you haven’t noticed, there seem to be a lot more pressing issues facing our country. A very serious economic crisis, two wars that are stalemates at best and more likely lost causes without good solutions, energy, the environment, education, health care, a world confronted with dwindling resources and increasing population. Somehow, the presence of people willing to work for dirt cheap wages in our country doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.
    It may have escaped your notice, but the immigration issue was a loser for the Republican party in both 2006 and 2008. The immigrant bashers mostly lost–JD Hayworth and whoever that was who lost CD 8 to Gabrielle Giffords here in Arizona. It was a loser of an issue in the Republican primaries this past year. Tom Tancredo answered every single question he was ever asked with a spew of immigrant hatred. Never got over the one percent line, either. Giuliani and Romney spent an entire debate trying to prove who was tougher on the immigrant issue. Both were out of the race three weeks later. The last two Republicans left standing in the race were McCain and Huckabee, the two with the most reasonable and compassionate stands on immigration. Why do you still want to keep this issue alive?
    I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Munsil that toning down the hateful rhetoric is a good idea. I think a better idea would be to drop the issue entirely. It’s only costing the Republican party votes, something they’ve been lacking in the last two elections. Obama won two thirds of the Hispanic vote, along with two thirds of young voters and 95 percent of African Americans. If the Republican party ever wants to run this country again, they’d better begin to address this.
    Drop the issue. If the Obama administration succeeds at even half his agenda, he’ll have the political capital to pass an immigration reform bill, including a pathway to citizenship. If you want to keep screaming bloody murder about it, you’ll just further damage your own cause.

  10. There will be no compromise from me for people who express opinions similar to Mike Woodman.
    “Somehow, the presence of people willing to work for dirt cheap wages in our country doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.”
    That’s the opinion of both those profiting from illegal labor and those who are shallow thinkers.
    Mike also thinks we should work on “energy, the environment, education, health care, a world confronted with dwindling resources and increasing population”.
    The fact is, you can’t affectively address ANY of those problems until illegal immigration is addressed.
    Perhaps Mike should also should look at who won – and who got trounced – in LD30 during this past election.
    I will neither cast a vote nor contribute a penny to any Republican who does not actively work to secure our borders.
    I did not vote for McCain. I will not vote for McCain if he runs again.