Thursday, November 18, 2004

Among the ballot measures that passed resoundingly in the election is one that no conservative can afford to ignore — Arizona’s Proposition 200. It is a measure that will require proof of U.S. citizenship for voting and proof of legal residency for many public services.

It passed with a 56 percent majority — a clear message from voters of their frustration with illegal immigration. What is most remarkable about this is that it is in a state where not only the governor, but also its famous senator, John McCain, opposed it, as did members of its congressional delegation.

Much is made of the gay marriage bans that passed in other states, but perhaps no ballot measure survived as much opposition from public officials as did this measure. Despite attempts to portray it as xenophobic, more than 40 percent of Arizona’s Hispanic voters supported it. It is a textbook example of common-sense grassroots action by citizens fed up with illegal immigration.

In light of such a success and the revelation that, nationwide, morality was an overriding concern for most voters, no conservative can afford to view illegal immigration as purely a policy problem independent of morality. As a legal immigrant and naturalized American, I believe illegal immigration is very much an issue that needs harsh moral judgment. And as a conservative voter, I support those who can bring a no-nonsense moral judgment when addressing social problems. I believe illegal immigration degrades immigration in much the same way that gay marriage degrades marriage.

Anyone who knows the difference between right and wrong knows the difference between legal and illegal conduct. Entering the country without permission is an illegal act. And while the illegal alien may have no moral sense about such an act, it behooves citizens who do have a moral sense about illegal acts to protest such acts if morality is to have any meaning. Morality will exist only as long as people with morals take a stand.

To condone illegal immigration is to condone anarchy. If illegal aliens are condoned for breaking the law because they are only escaping poverty, then by such logic we should also condone burglars who are poor. And pretty soon there would be an excuse for violating every law. The inevitable result would be anarchy.

Some conservatives tend to be compassionate about illegal aliens. This is misplaced compassion. If we need to be compassionate about immigration at all, it should be about the people who have to wait years in line to come here. (I waited years for my green card, and I view illegal aliens as line-jumpers who are utterly undeserving of any compassion whatsoever.) Compassion that encourages illegal behavior is, in effect, a vote for immorality. Illegal aliens have abused the compassionate approach — that is why there are some ten million of them here.

Due to their notorious aversion to making moral judgments, liberal elites have for too long blurred the distinction between right and wrong. No wonder that illegal aliens resort to liberal shenanigans when they get caught, insisting that they have rights too — but you never hear anyone talk about their responsibilities. They sue employers who supposedly discriminate against them, and accuse police of racial profiling when found driving without a license. And they even had the audacity to sue the government for not providing water at their illegal border-crossing points.

Let us hope that this election will put an end to such nonsense. The greatest conservative victory in a generation will be wasted if conservatism’s abiding respect for the law is not forcefully applied to people who have made a habit of flouting the law — illegal aliens.

But it appears that immigration enforcement is not a sure thing we can expect even from a re-elected conservative administration. For it is almost shocking to hear that, barely a week after the election, Secretary of State Colin Powell traveled to Mexico and indicated the administration’s desire to revive the amnesty plan that President Bush first proposed in January.

Amnesty for illegal aliens was a bad idea then, and it is a worse idea now. Those of us who voted for conservative values did not go to the polls because we had nothing to do that Tuesday. We went to the polls because we believed that conservatism was better for America than the moral miasma that liberals were promising. For elected conservatives to turn around and encourage illegal immigration will be an unconscionable perfidy of the trust that so many voters placed in them.

Ian de Silva is an engineer who has side interests in politics and history.

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