Steve Chapman

"We must secure our borders now and verify that they are secure," it says, which is like saying we must eradicate all criminal activity or ensure that every childhood is happy. Our borders will never be made secure as long as large numbers of poor foreigners see America as the end of the rainbow. They will find ways to get in.

Republicans generally oppose burdensome regulations of business, and many of them are leery of giving the federal government more power to monitor law-abiding citizens. But somehow they are infatuated with E-Verify, which would require the federal government to confirm the employment eligibility of every new hire in America.

This system, endorsed in the new statement, is billed as a weapon against foreigners who break our laws. But it would apply equally to native-born Americans who have never so much as missed a dental checkup. When the federal employment verification system makes mistakes, as it does, businesses are forced to postpone hiring and applicants end up cooling their heels.

"Every tyranny silences opponents by controlling their ability to earn a living," wrote economist John Cochrane of the University of Chicago and the Hoover Institution in The Wall Street Journal. "How is it that so many supposedly freedom-loving, small-government Republicans want to arm our nation's politicized bureaucracy -- fresh from the scandals at the IRS and elsewhere -- with the power to do just that?"

The good news is that these GOP members grasp the need to moderate their policy. They also offer an authentic compromise: granting legal status to millions of people but not assuring them eventual citizenship. The bad news is that the statement perpetuates the fantasy of wiping out illegal immigration by empowering government.

But the congressional Republicans are halfway toward reality, which represents big progress. And who knows? Maybe in time they'll realize that reality isn't going to meet them in the middle.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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