Evan McMullin: I support a path to legalization for illegals once the border is secure

Skip to 3:30 below for the key bit. Nick Gillespie wonders whether #NeverTrump conservatives will be as hard on McMullin for this heresy (“amnesty, as nativists are wont to call it!”) as they were on libertarian Gary Johnson for his supposedly disqualifying heresies on abortion and religious liberty. You tell me. The fact that Johnson and McMullin are both protest-vote options paradoxically makes the need for ideological purity from them stronger and weaker. On the one hand, who cares how far they stray from mainstream conservatism? If you want to cast a ballot symbolically for smaller government because you can’t stand Clinton and Trump, either one of them will suit that purpose fine. Neither will be president so rest easy that you haven’t voted for amnesty. On the other hand, once you opt out of the decisive two-party binary choice, you have the luxury of being picky. You could, after all, protest Clinton and Trump by either staying home or voting downballot while refusing to check a box for president. Why help either Johnson or McMullin pad his vote totals if you’re not completely comfortable with him?

My objection to litmus tests in their case has less to do with the value of the test per se than the sheer pitiful absurdity of movement conservatism, which lies in ruins, attempting to dictate terms at this point to two asterisk candidates as a condition for its support. It’s an unintentional self-parody of conservatives demanding purity in their elected officials over the last five years, except now they’re demanding it from two fringe candidates fighting over the rump of Reaganism. You might as well grade Kang and Kodos on an ideological scorecard. I’d compare it to crawling out of a burning building, covered in soot and choking for breath, and saying to the first guy who offers you water, “Do you *cough* support … a-a-a-amnesty?” You’re in no condition to worry about that now, buddy, especially with a Clinton landslide poised to make amnesty happen next year after congressional Republicans get wiped out in November. Trump bears a lot more responsibility for the immigration sellout to come than Evan McMullin ever will.

For what it’s worth, though, around the time Trump was blitzing the primary field in March, Pew conducted a national poll that found 59 percent of Republicans in favor of letting illegals stay in the U.S. legally subject to certain requirements. This year’s Republican exit poll of South Carolina, a state won easily by Trump, saw 53 percent of GOPers support offering illegals legal status. Exit polls of various other southern states showed similar results. I think McMullin would be out of the Republican mainstream if he backed unconditional legalization but he’s clearly imagining it here as provisional upon border security first. That was the position, I believe, of every GOP candidate in the field this year apart from Trump and, eventually, Ted Cruz, who tacked right on immigration enforcement late in 2015 when he started to get nervous that he was being out-populist-ed by Trump. In fact, given the bluish tilt in the Senate races right now, even if Trump did miraculously storm back to win a tight election, he might have no choice but to make a deal on immigration with Chuck Schumer that would result in some form of legalization in return for more border security. Mass deportation has always been a very heavy lift policy-wise. It’s arguably heavier now than it was when Trump got into the race.

Stick around for McMullin’s answer on refugees, by the way, which is very good. I’ve made the same point myself. It’s entirely reasonable to worry about terrorists trying to enter the country as immigrants. It’s not as reasonable to think they’d subject themselves to the refugee vetting process, which involves more scrutiny than other avenues of entry, to do so.