Changes in Immigration

You can tell when an election is coming when presidential hopefuls begin to change their position on certain topics. When it comes to immigration, this shift is especially true among Republicans.

Last Friday, in a Washington suburb, a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was held. The event convenes conservative activists and their leaders, and allows a parade of people who dream of being president to fish for conservative supporters.

Immigration is a favorite topic among conservatives, along with taxes, federal regulation or the budget. The difference is that, although politicians generally show consistency in their opinions throughout their career — for instance, on lowering taxes and eliminating regulation, — this does not seem to be the case regarding immigration. On this issue, positions shift.

That is what happened with past presidential candidates. Senator John McCain hardened his position, leaving behind a long career as a moderate on the issue. Mitt Romney, who at some point backed a path to citizenship for undocumented people, ended up being the candidate of “self-deportation.”

At the CPAC, Senator Marco Rubio defended his 180-degree turn from being one of the authors of a comprehensive reform on immigration to confessing that he had learned a “lesson.” Today, he would not do anything before securing the border.

In the last few days, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker took the chance to announce his change in position regarding immigration. Like Rubio, he no longer speaks about legalization but about securing the border first. In practical terms, this means a rejection of the comprehensive reform.

For his part, Jeb Bush defended his position in support of legalization but pointed out that his first action as president would be to eliminate Obama’s executive actions. He has also long abandoned his idea to create a path to citizenship.

This worries us because this rhetoric — translated into practice — is what is keeping Congress deadlocked and threatening with more deportations.

These electoral dynamics are unfortunate because changing the discourse when convenient is not acceptable. This kind of inconsistency only harms the possibility of achieving serious immigration policy