New York Times columnist Ross Douthat could hardly be considered a conservative in the mold of, say, a Ted Cruz. Most often he has reflected the "conservativism" of fellow New York Times columnist David Brooks who last summer came out in strong support for the Senate immigration bill.
Therefore it was a very pleasant surprise that Douthat broke with his fellow "conservative" columnist by recently denouncing the Republican establishment push to pass an immigration bill this year as "perverse":
...the bills under discussion almost always offer some form of legal status before enforcement takes effect, which promises a replay of the Reagan-era amnesty’s failure to ever deliver the limits on future immigration that it promised.
Douthat is only getting warmed up in his harsh criticism of the of the House leadership approach for an immigration bill:
A reasonable immigration compromise would also privilege high-skilled immigration over low-skilled immigration, given the unemployment crisis among low-skilled native workers and the larger social crisis that threatens to slow assimilation and upward mobility alike. But the House leadership seems to favor an approach that would create a permanent noncitizen class of low-wage workers and expand guest-worker programs — a recipe for looser labor markets, continued wage stagnation and fewer jobs for the existing unemployed.
So immigration policy is problematic on the merits — and then it’s politically problematic for Republicans as well. Immigration ranks 16th on the public’s list of priorities, according to the latest Pew numbers, so it’s difficult to see how making this the signature example of a new, solutions-oriented G.O.P. is going to help the party in the near term. Whereas it’s much easier to see how it helps the Democrats: if a bill passes, it will do so with heavy Democratic support, hand President Obama a policy victory at a time when he looks like a lame duck, and demoralize the right along the way.
And in stark contrast to claims by the Republican establishment and consultancy class (as well as Senator Chuck Schumer) that such an immigration bill would "help" Republicans, Douthat denounced it as being flat out politically stupid:
...it would divide the G.O.P., perplex the public, and let the White House reap immediate political benefits no matter how the push turned out.
Finally, Douthat claims that with Republicans now on a political roll going into the November elections, it would be an incredible mistake to take on a completely counter-productive immigration bill:
...in just the last week alone, recent Republican forays on tax reform, poverty and prisons have been joined by a plausible health care alternative and baby steps toward a proposal to help the long-term unemployed.
But that, too, is part of what makes the leadership’s immigration fixation so perverse. For the first time since the Bush presidency, high-profile Republicans are showing an interest in policy ideas that are fresh, politically savvy and well suited to the current economic malaise. Which makes it exactly the wrong time for the party to throw itself into a furious debate over an idea that is none of the above.
If Ross Douthat continues in this vein, he risks losing the quotation marks around his New York Times "conservative" designation. (Don't worry, David Brooks. Your "conservative" status remains fully secure.)