USA: How I Rethought Immigration

David Frum, June 2007

You might think that a trauma like 9/11 would have prompted a major rethink of its immigration policies by the Bush administration. You would think wrong. While enforcement was tightened in certain concentrated areas, elsewhere it actually relaxed. Immigration from the Middle East reached an all-time peak in 2005. Altogether, an estimated 8 million people settled in the U.S. in the first six years of the Bush administration, at least half of them illegally. In 2004, 2006, and now again in 2007, the president has attempted to push through legalization and guest-worker programs.

Neither the president nor his inner circle has ever cared to hear from dissenters on this issue. A hasty and careless economic calculus, a poorly considered political gamble, and self-righteous moral grandstanding have together pushed the president to the worst domestic political and policy error of his presidency.

It seems impossible that the immigration bill can succeed: A large majority of the American people claim to be following the immigration debate closely, and that majority opposes the immigration plan by a three-to-one majority. And when the bill collapses, it will take what little remains of the president's political capital with it. Did I say capital? No, that has long since been spent. It is his credit that he is now exhausting.

Out of this disaster, however, comes some hope. The national debate triggered by the Senate's catastrophic reform has accelerated the great rethinking of immigration on the part of many millions of Americans. The backroom deal that produced this latest law epitomized decades of collusion between the two parties to suppress open discussion of this vital issue. This time, at last, the collusion failed. Democracy has erupted. I'm ready to make my voice heard. How about you?

More: AEI, VFR