Ethics & Public Policy Center

Keeping Them Out, Letting Them In

Published in Commentary Magazine on July 1, 2008



Most of today's political debates in America fall into a familiar pattern. On issues ranging from taxes, health care, energy, education, and abortion to the Iraq war and government surveillance of suspected terrorists, liberals and conservatives assume distinct and often diametrically opposed positions. But in the last few years, one issue–immigration–has roiled American politics in unconventional ways. Crossing social and economic lines, differences over this issue have pitted the views and perceived interests of one minority (Hispanics) against another (African-Americans), caused divisions among people of shared religious faith, and set liberals concerned about the welfare of American workers against liberals who believe the United States has a duty to welcome newcomers from less developed nations. But the issue is most neuralgic, it would seem, on the Right–to the point where divisions over it threaten to split apart the conservative coalition. In this internal conservative debate, a leading magazine like National Review is on one side, a leading newspaper like the Wall Street Journal on the other; much of the talk-radio world is on one side, President Bush and Senator McCain are on the other. The differences are deep, intense, and at times personal.

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