But the problem is that few politicians are advocating both a wall and guest workers. The likes of Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) back the wall but oppose what they call “amnesty,” and the likes of Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) want a guest-worker program with a path to citizenship but look askance at proposals for a wall or for militarization of the border.
What is needed is a little logrolling. Liberals want the guest workers, and conservatives want the wall. Make a deal. Give them both what they want. The president or, failing that, the Republican Party in Congress needs to put together a package that delivers both.
The political impact of such a move would be sensational. It would do more to build a link between the GOP and the Latino vote than any other policy decision. It could lead to a realignment of the political loyalties of the Hispanic community.
The GOP base will happily watch the wall go up. It will breathe easier when we get control of our borders. The details of the guest-worker program — whether the illegals have to recross the border or not — will matter less to them than the obvious progress we will be making in building our wall to secure our borders.
The GOP needs to seize control over this potent issue, or it risks having the worst of both possible worlds. The right-wing base may be infuriated by the failure to pass legislation to control the border, and the Hispanics may be permanently alienated by a failure to meet the growing demands of their community for legal status.