Finding a presidential candidate, part I: Illegal Immigration
What I'm looking for: Illegal immigration is really the two separate problems of illegal entry into the United States and illegal residence in the United States. What I'm looking for is candidate who will be strong in stopping illegal entry, strong but tolerant in eliminating illegal residence, and supportive of legal immigration. General disqualifiers are amnesties without securing the border, making it illegal to enforce the laws against illegal entry or residence, and any form of outright lunacy.
Here are how the major party candidates appear to me on the issue, starting with the Republicans.
Alan Keyes: Keyes appears to be running on a conservative "morality" platform, so he seems to accept controlling the borders, enforcing the law, and encouraging citizenship. On the other hand, his web site's issue statement comes pretty close to invoking the "outright lunacy" disqualifier with talk of "de facto colonization of our country."
Ron Paul: Ron Paul has another Republican platform of border control and enforcing the laws, but with two proposals that ring false to me: ending birthright citizenship and no welfare for illegal aliens. Birthright citizenship is an American tradition and deserves to be continued. Denying welfare benefits to illegal aliens, period, is just too simply put here. We don't want to have a system that showers tons of free money on illegal immigrants while leaving legal immigrants out in the cold, but there are also certain services that government provides to its citizens that, yes, even illegal immigrants should be able to participate in.
Mitt Romney: Romney has the standard "law and order" Republican position -- control the border, enforce the laws -- without the pitfalls that we saw endorsed by Ron Paul. Avoiding mention of denying benefits to illegal immigrants helps Romney here and hurts Paul, because this is really a legislative decision and not an executive one. Explicit mention of punishing sanctuary cities is another plus in the Romney platform.
Rudy Giuliani: Giuliani has another standard "law and order" Republican position similar to Romney's, but with the exception of "Deporting illegal aliens who commit a felony." Oh, well, I guess that as long as illegal aliens aren't, say, carjacking the mayor's limo somewhere on Main Street, USA, then illegal immigration is ok.
Mike Huckabee: Huckabee has another good "law and order" Republican position -- if only he hadn't been brainwashed by the the Fair Tax. His platform also has a nice "screw you" to foreign governments: "Inform foreign governments when their former citizens become naturalized U.S. citizens."
Duncan Hunter: Hunter has yet another good "law and order" Republican position that, unfortunately, proves that he has been in Congress way too long. His website mentions his proposal for a "congressional pardon" for Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean. While this is a cause célèbre for many conservatives, the congressional pardon idea is, frankly, too non-presidential. Even if you think that these agents shouldn't be pardoned, Hunter's statement that he has been lobbying the president to pardon the agents is also too wimpy. It would be better, bolder, and more presidential to say "If President Bush won't pardon these agents, President Hunter will." Duncan Hunter also wants to end birthright citizenship, which I oppose.
John McCain: The Chameleon is already disqualified on this topic due to supporting the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007.
Fred Thompson: His website has another good "law and order" Republican position with no real standouts and no real drawbacks. There is nothing to celebrate but nothing to regret.
Moving on to the Democrats:
Joe Biden: He actually has an impressive website on this position. He seems like a standard Republican on the issue, but also has a subtle reminder that he is a liberal when he states "This debate has turned into a race to the bottom. It has become about ways to keep Spanish-speaking people out of this country when in fact undocumented people in this country are from all backgrounds." I guess his position is that conservatives are racist morons, so vote for me.
Hillary Clinton: Categorically disqualified. Sorry.
Christopher Dodd: Since I can't find immigration on his web site's issues list, he's disqualified as well.
John Edwards: Disqualified on the same technicality as Christopher Dodd.
Mike Gravel: His website blames illegal immigration on NAFTA. I guess he hasn't realized that, in fact, undocumented people in this country are from all backgrounds. The other day on NPR, he blamed the furor over illegal immigration on "scapegoating" due to, among other things, the instability in Iraq. Disqualified for outright lunacy.
Dennis Kucinich: His policy positions crash my web browser, so disqualified on a technicality. If you can't "step up to the plate", you don't get to be president.
Barack Obama: If I close my eyes and pretend that I didn't disqualify John McCain for the comprehensive immigration reform that Obama supports, he actually has a pretty reasonable-sounding position.
Bill Richardson: His position is similar to Barack Obama's, in the sense that it sounds reasonable if I ignore the support of comprehensive immigration reform.
Recap: Out of the Republican candidates, it looks like Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Fred Thompson are at the top of the list for me, followed by Rudy Giuliani in tier two, Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter in tier three, and with Alan Keyes and John McCain disqualified. The three non-disqualified Democrats don't compete with the Republicans for me. Otherwise, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Bill Richardson would be the three roughly equivalent potential endorsements on this issue.