High Atop the NRI Summit
If you’re in the Washington D.C. area, I hope you had a chance to stop by the National Review Institute Summit; turnout was high. This one seemed bigger and busier, and I suspect you’ll see it on the same scale in years to come. I don’t think the aim is to displace the traditional January Washington-area gathering of righties, the Conservative Political Action Conference (moved to March this year) but to complement it. (I do think CPAC outgrew its venues in recent years, and I’m glad to see they’re moving to a new, hopefull -roomier venue, the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.)
(Don’t let the suits know I told you this, but I’ll bet the summit is a good way to get an experience roughly akin to the sessions of a National Review cruise, without the cruise. They even had a Night-Owl session with Mark Steyn, Jonah Goldberg, and Rob Long.)
Some of the highlights can be found over in the Corner, some of the audio for other sessions can be found at Ricochet, and most of the policymaker’s speeches can be found on C-SPAN.
My role was to moderate a debate between Hugh Hewitt and Mark Krikorian on the topic of immigration; it was a pretty ideal setup because A) it’s an issue most folks on the Right have an opinion about, oftentimes strong opinions and B) Mark and Hugh like and have great respect for each other, yet both think the other’s approach to the issue is spectacularly wrongheaded and disastrous for the causes they hold dear.
From my notes:
This afternoon we’ll be discussing the passion-stirring topic of immigration; while you are free to applaud, laugh, scoff and sneer as you wish, but please hold all screaming and hurling of produce until the end.
If you are with the organization Code Pink, and plan on interrupting today’s proceedings, please pause and quietly contemplate how your life has gone so wrong so quickly.
Joining us today is Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues. He has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995 and author of the books The New Case Against Immigration, Both Legal and Illegal and How Obama is Transforming America through Immigration.
And for those of you thinking, “Ah, an immigration-restriction advocate with the last name Krikorian, I guess your folks came over on the Mayflower,” I estimate he’s heard that joke roughly eighty million times.
It was here that proud Armenian-American Krikorian noted that some Armenian settlers actually came over with the Jamestown settlement in Virginia, so they actually beat the Mayflower!
Also joining us today is Hugh Hewitt. Hugh is former executive director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, a professor of constitutional law at Chapman University School of Law, and author of 10 books, including The Brief Against Obama.
But you know him best as nationally syndicated radio talk show host carried on about 75 stations as part of the Salem Radio Network, where he is immensely popular and influential. I would add he also used to have terrific taste in guest hosts.
I am proud to call Hugh a friend and I am immensely impressed with all he has accomplished in his life considering a rare and painful condition he has endured for most of his life; that condition is being a Cleveland Browns fan . . . and apparently it’s worst in the autumn and winter months.
I know, I know, a Jets fan shouldn’t throw stones.
The format for our discussion will be relatively informal, there will be no time limits or buzzers or dings and at no point will John King ask you whether you prefer “Dancing with the Stars” or “American Idol.”
I’m just going to throw out topics of the current immigration debate and let each of you chew them over. Please hold off throwing punches until 5 p.m.
First to Mark, and then to Hugh for response, how much of the GOP’s poor showing in 2012 is the result of the way they handled the immigration issue? I note that earlier today, Senator Ted Cruz said that the polling he saw indicated that only 5 percent saw immigration as a top issue, and that the “47 percent” comment was a much bigger deal…
I’m going to ask both of you what you think of the immigration reform proposals from Marco Rubio. The senator has discussed his plan but not yet introduced it, so a couple of parts we know:
• Rubio said that any broad immigration legislation should create a nationwide exit system to check foreigners out of the country, to confirm that they left before their visas expired. He noted that at least 40 percent of an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country came on legal visas but then overstayed.
• A nationwide program for employers to verify the legal authorization of new workers, although he did not specify whether he would favor an expansion of an existing federal electronic worker-verification program or seek to create a new one.
• A temporary “nonimmigrant visa” to illegal immigrants, which would allow them to remain and work in the United States. They would have to wait a “significant but reasonable” period of time before they could apply to become legal permanent residents, going to the back of the line in the existing system. Once they became residents, they could go on like other legal immigrants to naturalize as citizens.
• According to current federal visa rosters, most Mexican-born immigrants applying to become permanent residents now face a wait of at least 17 years to receive their document — known as a green card — even if they followed the rules and were approved. Mr. Rubio’s proposal could add seven million more Mexican immigrants to those backlogs. The path to citizenship he proposes for illegal immigrants could be several decades long.
. . . Hugh, what does it mean that this issue has gotten so wrapped up in the rhetoric of caring vs. not caring, that Rick Perry — who had cultivated an image as one tough hombre, with no gooey soft sentiment in him — characterized those who don’t think children of illegal immigrants should pay in-state college tuition, as you’ll recall he said they “don’t have a heart.” I mean, if I want somebody to talk to me like that, I’ll tune in to MSNBC.
. . . I’m going to share one anecdote; some of you know I spent a few years living in Ankara, Turkey, and I had a friend who worked in the U.S. Embassy on the visa line. And he said that when he turned down Turks who wanted to come to the United States, they would sometimes cry and scream and get angry, and security would have to remove them. His previous post had been at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, and he said that when you turned down a Mexican visa applicant, they just shrugged and left, knowing they could just cross the border illegally.
Isn’t a big part of this equation the average Mexican in Mexico has no real economic opportunity, so that even the worst jobs in America look better? And do we have any ability to influence Mexico?
At this point we’ll take some questions, please show the staff your proof of citizenship before stepping up to the microphone…
. . . In the Wall Street Journal recently, Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick wrote, “The only tried-and-true method of reducing illegal immigration is a bad economy.” So maybe President Obama deserves a lot more credit than we’ve been giving him on reducing illegal immigration . . .