The Spectacle Blog

Tear Down That Wall (on the Southwest Border)

By on 10.3.11 | 9:36AM

Linda Chavez says some sensible things in her recent column about the GOP and the Hispanic vote. But she can't resist recycling some of the immigration expansionist right's golden oldies:

Instead of intoning, "I would build a fence on America's southern border -- on every mile, on every yard, on every foot, on every inch of the southern border," as Michelle Bachmann did last week, they ought to try listening to Ronald Reagan on the issue.

In 1980, when Reagan was running for the GOP nomination against Texan George H.W. Bush, he had this to say: "Rather than talking about putting up a fence ... why don't we make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit? And then, while they are working and earning, they can pay taxes here."

Remember how Reagan's legalization program for illegal immigrants -- which he had the honesty to call "amnesty" -- reduced illegal border entries and solved the problem of illegal immigration forever?

Me neither. Reagan would have learned from this mistake, like many of those who served in his administration and opposed subsequent amnesties.  Chavez continues:

Now if one of the GOP Reagan-wannabes up on the stage during the next debate would sound a little more like the Gipper, he or she might stand a chance of winning 40 percent or more of the Hispanic vote -- and the presidency -- in 2012. It worked for Reagan.

Actually, Reagan got 39 percent of the Hispanic vote in 1984. More careful estimates suggest George W. Bush did roughly the same. Both would be an improvement over the share of the Hispanic vote won by John McCain, who by 2008 had spent the better part of a decade as the Senate point man for Chavez's preferred immigration policy.

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