Conservative Jeb Hensarling: The GOP agenda next year should include a "vibrant" guest-worker program for low-skilled workers

I missed this over the weekend but Breitbart didn’t. Hensarling is, of course, the House Republican whom conservatives have been nudging for years to challenge Boehner. He’s resisted, but if Boehner were to retire tomorrow, the race for the next Speaker might very well boil down to Hensarling and Kevin McCarthy.

Interesting that a man in his position is talking this way.

Beyond Mr. Hensarling’s committee, he says the GOP agenda next year should include “making ObamaCare optional.” And the Texan would like to see immigration reform that allows more H-1B visas for high-tech workers and also creates a “vibrant guest-worker program” for low-skill workers who want to come here to work in agriculture for example.

He also favors more border security but says that doesn’t mean a physical wall is required over the entire length of our southern border. He believes a good guest-worker program is a form of border security because it allows law enforcement to focus on catching criminals and terrorists: “Less hay to find the needles.” This focus on immigration’s economic benefits is consistent with his free-market principles, though it puts him at odds with the drift of many Republicans who are falling for the fallacy that there are a finite number of jobs in the country and every immigrant robs a job from someone already here. Mr. Hensarling acknowledges the drift but thinks a GOP Congress would still be able to move piecemeal immigration reform to Mr. Obama’s desk.

On Monday I wondered if the news that DHS is accepting bids on making 34 million ID cards for immigrants over the next five years was proof that Obama’s thinking of an executive amnesty or if it was merely a sign that O thinks he’ll have a deal with the GOP done on legislation sooner rather than later — a deal likely involving a big new guest-worker program. Republicans will insist on border security and will (probably) resist legalizing illegals, which puts them in a tough position vis-a-vis the Latino voters they’re trying to pander to ahead of 2016. Possible solution: Instead of legalization for illegals who are already here, propose a massive new guest-worker program instead. That would, in theory, impress Latinos by welcoming Mexican workers into the U.S. And it would be more palatable to conservatives than the sort of permanent legalization that Democrats have their hearts set on. It’s a potential compromise move.

Just one question: Would Obama go for it? If the GOP sent him a bill proposing new border security measures plus a guest-worker program but with nothing on legalization, would he sign that or veto it knowing that Republicans will then claim that he’s the one who’s blocking Mexican workers from the U.S., not them? If the answer is “veto,” what if the GOP tacked on a delayed legalization provision, i.e. border security and a guest-worker program now and a legalization process later if the new security measures are successfully reducing illegal immigration? That sort of two-step security/legalization process is what border hawks have been after all along; the only way to ensure that Democrats take security seriously is to make it a prerequisite for the amnesty provisions that lefties really want. Democrats have resisted the two-step deal because they think there’ll never be enough security to satisfy the GOP: Even if you stationed Border Patrol agents every 10 feet on the border, if just one illegal sneaks through it’ll be used as proof that we need more security and therefore legalization will have to wait a bit longer. Having a guest-worker program right up front as part of the deal might sweeten it for lefties, though. After all, some (probably large) chunk of those new guest workers will end up overstaying their work permits illegally and disappearing into the U.S. That means an even larger population of illegals inside the U.S., most of whom will be voting Democratic later if/when an amnesty finally passes. Would Dems agree to a “security first, legalization later” deal if the GOP agreed to import hundreds of thousands of new workers-turned-illegals to make it up to them?

Imagine this move: O and the Democrats agree to the deal I described and a bill passes early next year. New security, new guest-worker program, and legalization eventually if the number of illegals entering the U.S. drops sharply. (Isn’t it bound to drop sharply even without the security improvements given that some would-be illegals will simply apply for guest-worker permits instead?) Then, in early 2016 — just months before the next presidential election — Obama decides that amnesty has waited long enough and he goes ahead and issues that executive order granting legal status to most of America’s illegal population. Not only will Democrats have secured a large new guest-worker program at that point, but Obama’s executive order will leave them well positioned with Latino voters right before the election to claim that, once again, it’s the left that actually delivered the sort of amnesty results that Republicans only pay lip service to. Vote Hillary! It’d be a master political stroke. What’s to stop King Barack from doing it?