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State, national columnists

Kristol changes tune on immigration

By From page A11 | August 10, 2014

SAN DIEGO — I used to have a lot of respect for William Kristol when it came to the issue of immigration.

In the 1990s, when California voters approved Proposition 187 to deny public benefits to illegal immigrants, Kristol was part of an intellectual cohort of conservatives who pushed back against the nastiness. Along with former Education Secretary William Bennett, former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp and others, Kristol argued that one reason the United States was an exceptional country was because of its immigrant tradition, even if immigrants were sometimes shortchanged in the process.

As the grandson of Jewish immigrants used to point out during the California debate, America may sometimes hurt immigrants but immigrants never hurt America.

Kristol also wasn’t afraid to challenge fellow Republicans to stop demagoguing the issue and avoid the catnip of nativism.

These days, as editor of The Weekly Standard, the conservative thinker is demonstrating how the immigration issue has the magical ability to inspire smart people to say foolish things. He also serves as a good reminder that commentators on the East Coast – and especially in Washington, where Kristol lives – ought to talk less and listen more when it comes to something most of them clearly don’t understand: the U.S.-Mexico border.

Kristol recently charged into the debate over what to do about the thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America crossing the border.

On ABC’s “This Week,” Kristol insisted that passing the Senate immigration-reform bill, which would have given the undocumented the chance to earn legal status, would have produced “more of a magnet for people to come north.”

The talking head doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

First, the Senate bill wasn’t an “amnesty” or a get-out-of-deportation-free card. That sort of thing comes with no strings attached, reminiscent of the lax immigration laws in place when Kristol’s grandparents emigrated from Eastern Europe in the early 1900s. The Senate bill had qualifiers and penalties and hoops for the undocumented to jump through. As a result, it would have legalized only half of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

Second, it’s arrogant and presumptuous of Kristol – and for that matter, Democrats – to believe that thousands of children fleeing violence in Central America would have taken their cues from what Congress did or didn’t do to fix immigration policy. They were coming regardless.

When the conversation shifted to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the program that lets undocumented youth avoid deportation with two-year work permits, Kristol wrongly referred to what is simply a policy change at the Department of Homeland Security as a full-blown executive order. Then he insisted that DACA had also contributed to the current crisis because children in Central America “saw that the previous generation of people who came in were amnestied, and they think they’re going to be amnestied.”

Again, there is no amnesty. And the child refugees don’t qualify for DACA. If they really are, as Kristol thinks, such keen observers of the U.S. political process, shouldn’t they know this?

Finally, Kristol drew a distinction between “legal immigration and illegal immigration” and said that “there are laws that should be enforced, in my humble opinion.”

Really? There’s nothing humble about Kristol’s opinion. Let me remind him that it is his party which, for all its sanctimonious talk about enforcing the law, works to weaken and undermine laws that punish employers for hiring illegal immigrants. As for the distinction between those who come legally and those who don’t, it’s something that, not long ago, didn’t worry Kristol so much.

During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” in April 2006, while discussing President George W. Bush’s push for comprehensive immigration reform and how some Republicans in Congress were pushing back with ugly language, Kristol declared: “I’m a liberal on immigration. I mean, I think the Bush approach is right . . . . Bush needs to step up and repudiate those House Republicans and their rhetoric, and make much more of a public case for his comprehensive immigration reform bill.”

Then, noting that previous waves of immigrants who have been legalized have contributed to the U.S. economy, served in the military and enriched the country, the commentator declared: “I am pro-immigration, and I am even soft on illegal immigration.”

I like the old Kristol better.

Ruben Navarrette is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Reach him at [email protected]

Ruben Navarrette


Discussion | 15 comments

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  • JagAugust 10, 2014 - 4:24 pm

    Of course you did Ruben, when he is on your side you like someone and when they are not you don’t, do I have that about right, well guess what? The Tea party don’t like him either as he is too much to the center/left so you can still have him and I see you are bouncing back to the same old crap, For gods sake YES we know the senate passed a immigration bill and it sucks but just in case you have not notice John does not have the votes from the right to get it passed and if he try’s the tea party will have enough votes to get him out as speaker of the house, Now don’t go blame us when it was your president that has control for two years of all three branches and could of passed it if he wanted to but he knows if he did he would of not had a second term so go talk to your boy not us, again I ask, you want in immigration bill? Close and seal the border and send all illegal home and let’s start from there,

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  • The SugarJarAugust 10, 2014 - 4:28 pm

    Mr. Navarrette is not an Obama supporter.

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  • JagAugust 10, 2014 - 4:44 pm

    Maybe not but 95% of his articles are (the dreamers should be legal) he continues to blame the right when Obama could of done it and there would have been not a dam thing we could have done about it,

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  • TermiteAugust 10, 2014 - 4:59 pm

    OH, please, TSJ. Try pulling my other leg!

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  • The SugarJarAugust 10, 2014 - 5:04 pm

    I read the articles too. He is a conservative. When he mentions the President it is negatively. He does criticize conservatives and liberals. Perhaps he expects better from conservatives.

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  • JagAugust 10, 2014 - 5:12 pm

    He just blames liberals for using immigration as a carrot, but he always blames republicans for not passing a bill, we will pass a bill but liberals won’t like it,

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  • The SugarJarAugust 10, 2014 - 5:59 pm

    He probably won't either.

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  • The SugarJarAugust 10, 2014 - 5:10 pm

    Leg pulling? Not even close.

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  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=537kWa5RxGQAugust 10, 2014 - 7:13 pm

    How to Draw a Cartoon Termite with Bruce Blitz ( he forgot to add the glasses )

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  • Colonel Bleep: Squeek & The Terrible TermiteAugust 10, 2014 - 7:31 pm


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  • JagAugust 10, 2014 - 9:43 pm

    orange oil dot com

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  • Anti DeuchAugust 10, 2014 - 9:19 pm

    "In the 1990s, when California voters approved Proposition 187 to deny public benefits to illegal immigrants, Kristol was part of an intellectual cohort of conservatives who pushed back against the nastiness." So starts the second line of Ruben Deucharett's latest pile of BS. Why does anyone reprint his racist nonsense? Is responding to your country being invaded by illegals in any way nasty? I think not. When your country is being invaded the rational response it to repel the invaders using all force necessary to repel the invasion. Part of the founding documents of this country included the words "To provide for the common defense." I respectfully suggest to the Congress of the United States and the Legislature of the State of California: we need to go to war against the invaders and all the supporters of the invaders. To do anything less is treason.

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  • The SugarJarAugust 10, 2014 - 9:32 pm

    Racial and racist aren't the same. Anyone can be bigoted, hateful, and/or prejudiced. Racism requires certain systemic institutional support. Mr. Navarrette is a lot of things, but his "nonsense" isn't racist. He's expressing a viewpoint that is based on his experience in the format of an opinion column. Sometimes I agree, sometimes not. But I look to understand his point. Now the treason stuff, that's a whole 'nother thing.

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  • Anti DeuchAugust 10, 2014 - 10:20 pm

    SugarPants: You can redefine what ever words you want. I used a word which exactly described his commentary. When you jump into Ruben Deuch's bed and start defending him I put you in the "aiding the enemy" category, alongside the treasonous ones. Hope you enjoy the reaming you are getting from your co-conspirators.

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  • The SugarJarAugust 10, 2014 - 10:58 pm

    Please watch the sexist language. Your incorrect conclusions stand on their own. As do your threats.

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