Leading off a new administration with another attempt to pass a version of immigration reform that the public has repeatedly rejected, while other critical domestic and foreign policy issues are left languishing will not bode well for either man. Given the enormity of the economic and foreign policy challenges facing the new president, and the painful choices that will have to be made, he will require the good will of the American people – and lots of it. Political capital, as his predecessor can attest, can be easily squandered, especially when it is spent on legislation designed to pander to special interests.
Not only would the sort of amnesty and increased guest worker programs the presidential candidates are proposing be politically unpopular; they would cripple the next administration’s ability to tackle other serious domestic and foreign policy issues. Implementing the sort of plan that McCain and Obama are proposing would require massive new federal bureaucracies and billions of dollars the federal government doesn’t have. It would impose incalculable social burdens, as government at all levels would be forced to absorb tens of millions of mostly poor immigrants in the coming years.
In addressing immigration policy, President McCain or President Obama would be wise to begin where political consensus exists: enforcing existing laws and scaling back endless and pointless family chain migration. The American people are not expecting miracles or instant solutions to our failed immigration policies. They are expecting straight talk and honest government that restores hope that their interests are put first, not last.
Unfortunately, on the issue of immigration, what they’ve heard from both candidates is simply more of the same.