Mitt Romney is harming his general election candidacy, the GOP and America with his aggressive posturing against American immigrants.
Ronald Reagan launched his 1980 campaign with the backdrop of the Statue of Liberty. Romney is basing his 2012 campaign on a fantasy of building a Berlin Wall with Mexico.
Reagan believed in the shining city on a hill. Romney, despite a career as a moderate businessman and governor, is fighting for a giant fence. Compare those visions for America.
A few other GOP presidential candidates support a border fence. But none supports it with such gusto. And Romney is the front-runner, which carries additional responsibilities. For now, he speaks only for his campaign, but he may soon speak for all of us.
So, we need to ask ourselves: Do we really want an Iron Curtain on the Rio Grande? What will that say about us? Will it contradict the Statue of Liberty? Or is there a better way for immigration hawks and doves to work together on the complex issue of border security and immigration?
Romney claims he supports legal immigration and tech immigration. The Tech Guys don’t buy it. Imagine yourself as a PhD candidate at UC San Diego. You are an immigrant from India who plans to start the next Facebook. You could do it in the USA or in India. Would your decision be impacted by the sight of border fence construction a few miles south of your dorm?
If Romney really supported tech immigration, he wouldn’t make restricting immigration his primary political argument against his best-funded rival.
On November 4, Politico reported that Romney is running robo-calls in Iowa:
Arizona border-county Sheriff Paul Babeu speaks on the call … Babeu says — quote — “Rick Perry is opposing a border fence and granting in-state tuition benefits to illegal immigrants. Rick Perry is part of the illegal immigration problem.”
Romney is a highly intelligent man. He knows quite well that his intense push against illegal immigrants is also driving voter passions against legal immigrants. The Washington Post has reported on the exodus of legal and illegal immigrants from Alabama following the recent passage of strict immigration laws. Too much effort to keep out illegal immigrants and we may scare away valuable legal immigrants who have brought us such wonders as Google and Yahoo.
Unlike Romney, the Tech Guys don’t flip-flop on immigration. Our past Daily Caller op-eds include: “GOP needs to lead the melting pot!” and “Give us your tired, your poor … and your PhD scientists.” We are fiercely pro-growth, pro-technology and pro-immigration. We are more dovish on immigration than many Daily Caller readers. But wherever you stand, it is pretty clear that the GOP is risking suicide by driving away millions of conservative-leaning Hispanic voters.
Republicans need to make peace with the immigration issue the way Democrats made peace with gun rights. Gun control cost Gore the presidency in 2000. But Obama and Democrats got smart. They may not believe in the right to bear arms, but they have learned to embrace it enough to win elections.
Some conservative leaders agree. Also in Politico on November 4:
Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land gave Perry credit Thursday for getting it right on immigration as governor, and chided the other GOP candidates for going after Perry on the issue.
“I think Perry was right about the in-state tuition issue and I think the rest of the candidates should be ashamed of how they behaved at that debate,” said Land.
Said Land: “Practically speaking, I wanted to shout at the screen, ‘Do you people not understand that Hispanics vote?'”
At a minimum, the GOP needs a politically viable position regarding immigration policy. We can debate wholesale immigration reform tomorrow. But we need to build a consensus today that the GOP as a party and America as a country will never allow the construction of a Berlin Wall between America and Mexico.
The GOP needs new leaders on the immigration issue. Senator Marco Rubio brings crowds to tears with his American Dream story. Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan are developing strong track records of promoting high-skilled immigration in order to drive job growth and innovation. Congressman Jeff Flake has proposed the Staple Act to staple a green card to the back of science and engineering PhDs.
Ultimately, these high-skilled immigration issues may matter more to America than border policy, because America is in a global arms race with China and India for aggregate GDP and innovation/entrepreneurship. Our high-skilled immigrants are our biggest advantage in that arms race. For hundreds of years, America has attracted the most innovative and hard-working people in the world to its shores. But increasingly they are leaving due to our country’s poor economic policies and degrading immigration policies. In the 2012 election, we need to fix both.
As Reagan predicted, we won the Cold War because our ideas were better. USSR = Iron Curtain. USA = Statue of Liberty.
Mr. Romney, tear down this wall!
Note: Charles contributed to Rick Perry’s presidential campaign but has no formal role on the Perry campaign and is speaking for himself. Patrick was a Tim Pawlenty supporter and has yet to choose his final candidate.
Charles Curran and Patrick Ennis have spent over 35 combined years as technology investors and innovators. They live in Washington, D.C. and Washington State, respectively.