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The Future of Immigration Reform

Today the Republicans in the House are having a meeting to discuss the fate of immigration reform. This issue has truly managed to divide conservatives, but I hope it is a divide that can be overcome.

I've said from the beginning that the crucial first step in any immigration reform legislation is to secure the border first. This is important because if we don't get serious about securing the border, then we will continue to have this debate in the years to come. The 1986 immigration bill passed, yet here we are debating the issue again. Why? Because our border was not secured.

Some conservatives view the “secure the border first” argument as draconian. I see it as pragmatic. It is the first step in a series of reforms that are important to this nation's immigration policy. It's not coming from a place of heartlessness, nor is it coming from a desire to kill immigration reform altogether. I recognize that most Americans want something to be done on immigration reform, but I don't think we should do something for the sake of doing something; We need to be smart and work to solve the problem. Without limiting or stopping the flow of illegal immigrants by securing our borders, it makes legal immigration reform more difficult to achieve as well.

It's rather curious that so many people, including Democrats, believe that if the GOP doesn't act on immigration reform then their future as a viable political party is essentially over. I don't believe that to be the case, unless Republicans allow it to be the case. What I do understand, however, is that if nothing is accomplished on immigration reform, then this will play beautifully into the Democrat playbook for 2014: Paint the Republicans as obstructionists and highlight their inability to get anything done in Congress. That's the political spin that would play out. But fear of the Democrat PR machine shouldn't mean that conservatives should compromise on their values or make dumb decisions.

Last night on Hannity, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor promised that the Hastert Rule would be enforced, meaning that a proposal from a joint House-Senate conference committee will not be voted on without the majority of Republican support in the House. He also brought up a great point: In light of Obama's decision not to enforce the employer mandate provision of ObamaCare, that only adds fuel to the skepticism that this administration would actually follow through on securing the border when it comes to immigration reform. In other words, without measured triggers in place, we would have little reason to believe that border security would actually be achieved. That is unacceptable.

If I'm being completely honest, no matter what happens in this immigration debate, the Republicans will likely lose the PR battle. The Democrats are just so much better at message discipline that even if the GOP caved in and passed the Senate bill, the GOP won't be rewarded politically by anyone – Conservatives, Hispanics, Democrats, Independents. Therefore, stick to conservative principles and try to solve the problem smartly. And for what it's worth, big government solutions to any problem are rarely categorized as “smart.”