Rubio: Politicians want the immigration issue to remain unresolved

Tough-minded Republicans fear monger and the dear Democrats pander, but nobody so much as moves to make a move to really reform immigration policy — or so says Sen. Marco Rubio.

In a speech to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials today, Rubio said politicians have two strong incentives to do nothing about the illegal presence in the United States of millions of immigrants: As long as the immigration issue remains unresolved, they can use it to influence elections and raise money.

“I’ll tell you right now, it’s powerful politics,” Rubio said.

Rubio’s right — and President Obama is Exhibit A. As Rubio also cheekily pointed out in his speech today, Obama hasn’t addressed NALEO in three years — but, on this fine summer afternoon of a heated election year, he’s making a conspicuous appearance at their conference. Coincidence? A very decided no.

(Unfortunately for those who like to make sport of the president’s perpetually poorly disguised campaigning, Rubio’s reference to Obama’s spotty attention to NALEO was a rare jab at the president in the Florida senator’s otherwise very diplomatic speech. “I was tempted to come here and rip into the policies of the president,” Rubio said. “But if I did, I’d be doing the exact same thing that I just criticized.”

Rubio further expressed frustration that the media has interpreted Obama’s recent changes to enforcement of immigration law solely in the context of the election. Perhaps if Obama hadn’t announced the changes in the context of the election, the media wouldn’t have interpreted it according to that context … )

While Rubio’s excoriation of politicians on both left and right is most welcome, I must point out: If voters mindlessly respond to pandering, then the electorate deserves excoriation, too. It’s no secret that politicians often care more about politics than they do about policy. After all, they depend upon reelection for their jobs. It’s up to voters to predicate the reelection of any given politician on his support for sound policy. (Personally, I don’t expect Latinos to fall for the president’s fawning this time, though: Like all other voting blocs in the country, they care most about jobs.)

What would constitute sound immigration policy? Let’s just say Florida Gov. Rick Scott is onto something when he says the solution must be “whole.” That doesn’t necessarily mean, though, that the focus of reform should be on immigrants who have already illegally entered the country. They chose to live in “the shadows” when they immigrated illegally. Perhaps, consigning them to stay in said shadows — with the possibility of deportation always before them — is enough of a consequence to deter more illegal immigration.

Otherwise, let’s keep the focus on securing the borders and reforming the United States immigration system. The quota system we currently use is more than a little outdated and desperately in need of an update. That’s where the focus of reform should be.

As Rubio said today, “The single biggest contributor to illegal immigration is a burdensome, bureaucratic and complicated legal immigration process. There are millions of people in this country who would go back home if they thought they could come back here next year to work in their seasonal jobs. And I know of no one who wouldn’t rather immigrate legally if they could.”

Properly speaking, immigration policy is not a question of what to do with those who have broken our laws. Properly speaking, immigration policy is a question of who we allow to enter the country, who we don’t and how.

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