Mike Huckabee’s new immigration plan, unveiled today, is a case in point. Titled the “Secure America Plan,” its bullet points include “Build the fence,” “Increase border patrol,” and “Prevent amnesty,” with this little sub-bullet:The lengthier Huckabee riff on immigration, in the full transcript, adds whiplash to the flip-flop.“Propose to provide all illegal immigrants a 120-day window to register with the Citizenship and Immigration Services and leave the country. Those who register and return to their home country will face no penalty if they later apply to immigrate or visit; those who do not return home will be, when caught, barred from future reentry for a period of 10 years.”What happened to the Huckabee-approved “pathway to citizenship”? Here’s what he said in an inteview last year: “To think that we're going to go lock up 12 million people or even round them up and drive them to the border and let them go might make a great political speech but it's not going to happen."
Why the switch from “pathway to citizenship” to deport-and-blockade? Chalk it up to the tuition breaks flap. In the past few weeks, Huckabee has defended an Arkansas program that would have reduced tuition for the children of illegal immigrants. He claims he doesn’t want to punish children for their parents’ crimes—or, as he says, “sins.” But his opponents, and Romney in particular, have no trouble grilling his cakes over it.
I tend to think that the rational approach is to find a way to give people a pathway to citizenship. You shouldn't ignore the law or ignore those who break it. But by the same token, I think it's a little disingenuous when I hear people say they should experience the full weight of the law in every respect with no pathway, because that's not something we practice in any other area of criminal justice in this country.The point of that, to use Huckabee's own words, is to pander to the "certain segment of the population that is truly exercised about this and virtually nothing but this. And they've gone to seed on it." Now who else has gone to seed?
We have everything from plea bargainings to suspended sentences to probation to clemency. There's a whole gamut of ways in which there are lesser than the full penalties applied for a whole variety of reasons -- everything from jail overcrowding to non-violent offenses.
To think that we're going to go lock up 12 million people, or even round them up and drive them to the border and let them go, might make a great political speech, but it's not going to happen. What should happen, however, is exactly what I think the president has proposed, and that is that we create a process where people make restitution for the fact they have broken the law.
It's not an amnesty, and I know that there are some who think that anything less than essentially grabbing them by the nape of the neck and tossing them over a fence, real or imaginary, is amnesty. But I think that's ridiculous. And whether it's Patrick Kennedy, Rush Limbaugh, or an illegal immigrant, there ought to be some rationality in how we apply our law. We do that every day.
I would imagine if any of us checked the record of prosecutors in my state or yours there are far more sentences that are plea bargained than actually go to trial. And that it's pretty darn rare that a person even convicted at trial gets the maximum sentence on every charge brought. It's just not always the way we do it.
Suddenly to say that these people that came over here to pluck a chicken, pick a tomato, or make a bed should suffer the full consequences of the law as if somehow they've totally violated our peace and prosperity, is absurd. Now, should they have to pay some type of fine? Should they have to get in line behind the ones who are going through the legal process? Sure. That's quite appropriate. But criminalizing beyond what they've already been criminalized, I mean, they've already broken the law. But to make them felons and in essence to say we're going to put our heel on their head, what's the point of that?
Update 1/16/2008: Wow. I thought Huck's transformation into Tancredo was disingenuous, but I never imagined it was a complete sham.