David Frum

05.07.13

What Do Opponents of this Immigration Reform Really Want?

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David Brooks takes off the boxing gloves today.

The opponents of immigration reform have many small complaints, but they really have one core concern. It’s about control. America doesn’t control its borders. Past reform efforts have not established control. Current proposals wouldn’t establish effective control. But the opponents rarely say what exactly it is they are trying to control. They talk about border security and various mechanisms to achieve that, but they rarely go into detail about what we should be so vigilant about restricting. I thought I would spell it out.

What David then spells out is not very flattering. In fact, in his telling, the opponents of the Senate immigration plan seem a bunch of dummies, trying to stop love & prosperity & progress.

I happen to have one of those opponents right with here with me as I write, living conveniently inside my head. And I can tell you what he wants to control: he wants to control the accelerating drift of the United States toward becoming an ever more class-divided, wealth-concentrated society while also preserving the dynamic, private-enterprise character of the American economy.

The proponents of the deal seem to agree that we can't have both those things. Some proponents of the immigration reform - our friends at Cato, the Club for Growth, the Wall Street Journal editorial page etc. - are untroubled by the rapid evolution of the United States toward plutocracy. Other proponents see the immigration deal as part and parcel of a progressive agenda that will include a much larger role for government as redistributor and regulator. It's a fascinating question which of those two factions will emerge upper-most. But both are clear-eyed about the direction in which they seek to go.

People who want to defend a market-society that works for the great American majority need to be equally clear-eyed about what this plan really does, for whom and to whom.