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OPINION

The GOP's Immigration Mess

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

On Saturday I will be debating Mark Kirkorian on immigration policy before the National Review Institute.

I am a "wet," on the topic. Have been since I opposed California's proposition 187 in 1994.

Mark, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, is a "dry."

Here's the interesting thing about out "debate," to be moderated by National Review's Jim Geraghty: Even if one or the other of us succeeds in persuading everyone in the room of our point of view, it doesn't matter. Not a lick. The GOP is branded as an anti-immigrant party, especially with voters under 30, the suicide demographic. I call it that because if that demographic remains fixed against one or the other of the parties, it is suicide for that party.

So all the debates in the world don't matter. We have to get past the issue. Every day in which immigration is debated in the national media is another day the GOP loses a media cycle. Bringing up "deportation" hasn't quite reached the level of self-destructiveness as discussions of rape, but it is a close second. The GOP needs to welcome whatever bill the president sends up, improve on it by substituting some of the best ideas of Senator Rubio, and passing it. ASAP.

If the president dawdles, then Rubio should introduce his and arrange for co-sponsors in the House. Going slow is the political equivalent of ecotourism in the Korean DMZ. Nothing worth seeing and a good chance of getting killed.

In 2007 I opposed the GOP immigration reform bill because it was lousy. I read it line by line and it was a mess, as was quickly admitted by even some of its sponsors after it appeared. I am worried the same staff geniuses who brought that forward now bring us Nightmare 2.0. Hopefully Rubio will stop them.

Immigration reform is fairly simple: Good people who are here illegally get to stay but not be eligible for some benefits immediately and they do not get to vote in a vast regularization. If you want to be a citizen as opposed to a permanent resident you have to go home and get in line for what should be a vastly expanded visa system. We keep upping border security by finishing the fence and overhauling the visa system.

To those who say we don't need more people, I refer them to the pro-life movement which is this week memorializing the loss of 55 million unborn Americans. Clearly the country has a lot of population growth it could use.

The opportunity of an immigration bill is that it could be interwoven with an education reform bill that would ensure the children of immigrants are not trapped in horrible, failing schools. Tying immigration reform to school reform makes sense and good politics. At a minimum, conditioning regularization on increased funding for public charters and expanded choices of enrollment for immigrant children makes sense.

I will open my talk in DC by talking of my love for Cadillacs. I don't own one and never have. I won’t buy one or any GM car until the government divests from the company. But even when that happens I will have a hard time persuading my wife. She says it has a horrible brand as a car for septuagenarian white men with tee times. That is the power of brand. Try as Cadillac might with its ads of cliff-hanging daredevil driving, the brand is still the brand. It was built over a very long time and will change only with real change in the car's styling and selling.

The GOP's brand with Latinos is just as terrible as Cadillac's with 20-somethings when it comes to immigration. Vis-vis these voters on this issue, Mark Kirkorian and I are in the position of the teacher in a Charlie Brown special talking and talking while the class only hears a low trumpet playing "whah-whah-whah-whah-whah.".

Marco Rubio has credibility and the gift to cut through the noise and get regularization done. Listen to him. Do what he says. It isn't that complicated.

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