Sign the pledge! That's the rallying cry from the anti-immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and conservative radio host Laura Ingraham is leading the charge. They want Republican candidates to agree to oppose any form of legalization for undocumented workers in the U.S., any legislation that allows more legal immigrants into the country, and any potential increase in the number of guest workers. "Will your candidate protect American workers?" Ingraham asks on her website. "Make sure they sign the pledge."
Unfortunately, Ingraham's idea is a dud all the way around. It is bad policy, bad strategy, and bad for the country. Not only that, it runs counter to what most Americans want: a solution to our country's broken immigration solution. Ingraham's pledge is remarkable only for being pathetic and pointless.
"If you don't sign this pledge," Ingraham said on her radio show," then you're not someone who believes in border enforcement, and you're someone, apparently, who trusts the Obama administration to implement immigration reform." Not true. Ingraham's pledge is basically a promise to do nothing on immigration. It would ensure the U.S. does not enjoy the potential benefits of reform, like boosting economic growth. It would ensure that we don't lower our deficit by an estimated $200 billion over the next ten years. It would ensure that we remain stuck in our dysfunctional status quo, and it's hard to see how that is a desirable outcome for anyone.
Ingraham overlooks the fact that Barack Obama will not be president forever. If Congress passed reform tomorrow, by the time it was implemented Obama would likely be out of office. Besides, Ingraham's pledge is not only against any so-called "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants, it is against allowing any more legal immigrants into the country. When the best and the brightest from all over the world want to come here, Ingraham would prefer that we slam the door on them. Her aggressively anti-immigrant stance is better understood when we remember that her affiliate FAIR has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Ingraham has succeeded in getting GOP candidates in Virginia, New York, North Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi to sign her pledge. Yet her idea could have disastrous consequences for the Republican Party. By not acting on immigration reform, the GOP will continue to alienate Latino voters, making their chances of ever retaking the White House more remote. Republican inaction on reform will make it easier for President Obama to justify taking executive action on his own, cutting the GOP right out of the political process.
Ironically, Ingraham's pledge is modeled on conservative Grover Norquist's successful no-taxes pledge - and Norquist supports immigration reform. "It's the most important thing to focus on if you're concerned about the future of the country both as an economic power and as a serious leader of the world, or simply as a successful society," he said at a keynote speech in 2012.
Unlike Ingraham, voters want action, not inaction, on immigration reform. A January poll by Fox News found that 68 percent of Americans favor reform that includes a path to citizenship for the undocumented. A February poll by Fwd.US found that 78 percent of Americans support reform over the status quo, including 84 percent of Republicans. This same poll found that nearly half of Americans would punish politicians who blocked reform. So Ingraham's pledge does not exactly represent a successful political strategy.
Sure, immigration is a contentious issue, and there are principled conservatives who oppose reform. But Ingraham is not one of them. On her radio show, she has compared negotiating with President Obama on immigration to negotiating with Fidel Castro on human rights. She has questioned whether Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was loyal to her "immigrant family background" rather than the Constitution (Sotomayor is of Puerto Rican descent, and Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, not immigrants). Ingraham has mocked an immigrant for speaking English with an accent, and claimed that immigration from Mexico would turn the U.S. into a "hellhole." Considering that Ingraham is an educated woman with an adopted Hispanic child, this is all just sad. Worse, Ingraham is actively encouraging lawmakers not to do their job - at a time when immigration reform is stuck in Congress despite bipartisan support.
Ingraham's pledge deserves to seen as divisive, ill-conceived, and extreme. Our immigration debate needs thoughtful solutions, not destructive demagoguery.