As expected, Don Wagner announced his run for the 37th District State Senate vacated by Mimi Walters, who will be headed to Congress representing the 45th Congressional District. For the record, I do support Wagner. Wagner is a principled, stand up conservative, and he has always made himself readily available to myself and others who have wanted to learn about what he’s up to in the California State Assembly and discuss issues that concern us here in Irvine and surrounding areas. Certainly, I don’t expect this to be a coronation, and do expect that there will be a quality candidate to run against Wagner, but out of the gate there are already rumblings about a letter he signed along with other California state Republican legislators urging U.S. Congressmen from California to support “comprehensive” federal immigration reform. Personally, I was a bit stung by the letter, as it appears to me to play right into the hands of Democrats.
In the letter, Wagner et al. called for “thoughtful and strong border security, employer sanctions, and opportunity for undocumented residents to earn their full way to citizenship, but only behind those who have applied to become citizens through the current citizenship process.” I do believe this is somewhat reasonable, in theory, with the key exception that undocumented residents earn their full way to citizenship. There should be a price to pay for coming to this country illegally even if grace is applied, and if a bill were to pass with that clause implemented, it would be tantamount to declaring to all future illegal immigrants that if you get here and hang out long enough, you too can expect eventual citizenship. It may take a long time, but if you can avoid deportation, which has become easier and easier, it will have been worth it to go the illegal route instead of going the legal route and waiting your turn. Effectively, it would make legal immigration less attractive for those who felt they simply couldn’t afford to wait, and would be the proverbial slap in the face to those waiting to enter the country legally.
I can’t say I know Wagner’s intentions directly, but from some correspondence with him on immigration in general, I know that Wagner understands how hobbled the Republican Party has been, particularly here in California, by not actively pursuing and passing immigration reform legislation. There is little the Republicans can do here in California as they don’t have the governorship and are a distinct minority in both state houses, but there did appear to be a chance at bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate and House and perhaps Wagner et al. saw this as an opportunity to take illegal immigration off the table that focuses first on border security, then on employer sanctions, and finally on handling the illegal immigrants currently here (and hopefully in that order!). I think a key mistake Wagner makes is actually believing that comprehensive immigration reform is workable. There were supposed to be border protections in the 1986 amnesty bill signed by Reagan, but we all know that didn’t happen and now we have north of 12 million illegal immigrants in this country. So passing a comprehensive bill and expecting that it will be ordered in the manner as stated above, I think, is being highly unrealistic (okay, naive, with Obama, Pelosi, and Reid running things on the Democratic side).
For one, I am tired of huge, thousand page bills, and think we need to get away from “comprehensive” anything. What we need are smaller, simpler bills that can be read and understood by the average American. For an issue as huge as immigration reform, what we need is a broad framework that consists of border security, a functioning guest worker program that makes it foolish to immigrate here illegally in the first place, a way to legalize current illegal immigrants without providing for citizenship, and finally employer enforcement. Of course, this is the Orange County Lincoln Club position that I have been advocating for years. I believe this can be accomplished in a series of small bills that must be executed in a particular sequence that ensures we’re not back in the same situation we’re in now ten years later. My hope is that Wagner will further consider this and address it sooner than later, but I don’t think the letter should necessarily disqualify him in anyone’s mind who is considering reserving their vote for a single (though important) discretion. I wish Wagner well in his run, but I think he could be vulnerable on this issue if another candidate as excellent as him comes forward with a view more in line with the conservative base that sees Wagner as an amnesty supporter.