President Bush has a long list of regrets that he's been sharing as he eases his way out of the White House. Chief among them is the failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
"I'm very disappointed that it didn't pass," Bush told Texas reporters last week. "I'm very worried about the message that said, 'Republicans are anti-immigrant.'"
Instead of trying to reform Social Security immediately after the 2004 election, he said in hindsight, he should have gone for immigration reform.
"Well, I wish he'd done neither, Social Security or comprehensive immigration reform," responded former Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican and leader of the anti-immigration wing of the GOP, "because Social Security drained his political capital. It was a good idea but I think he underestimated the opposition coming from the control freaks on the other side."
Tancredo told the Huffington Post that Bush ought not to worry whether the party is perceived as anti-immigrant. "It's our domestic policy here in the United States. We don't have to apologize for our domestic policy to anybody," he said. "We have more human rights here than any place in the world. We respect the individual. If they don't respect the rule of law and they're offended that we want to enforce the rule of law, then I think we should wonder what we think of their opinion."
Tancredo said the "same goes for the folks in the Middle East. I'm not concerned about how we make them like us. I'm concerned with doing the right thing. And they have to do some adjustment themselves."
Too much time is spent on Bush's failures, Tancredo said. "I focus on the accomplishments of the Bush administration. I recognize that he's done the things he's done because he believed in them. I salute him for his service to America and I don't have to fight with him any more over the things we disagree," he said, highlighting his tax cuts the dearth of terrorist attacks since September 11th.
If Bush could do it all over again, however, Tancredo would have been happy to take the immigration reins. "I wish he would have handed the immigration policy over to me the last six years. I would have loved that," said Tancredo. He perked up and explained in detail how he would have reformed American's immigration system.
"I would have built a wall on the border and I would have double- and triple-fenced it. I would have put the technology on it and I would have widened the ports of entry and added technology to that. I would have forced all human traffic through our ports of entry. All traffic. And that's step one. Step two would be workplace enforcement; cut off the jobs magnet. I would have passed the New ID Act, which eliminates the deductibility of wages and benefits paid to illegals. The IRS then comes into the enforcement and they're the ones that really love what they do. I would have taken three to five years, and maybe more, of aggressive enforcement of our immigration laws and reinforced the rule of law," he said.
The locked-down border and tighter enforcement, he said, would allow the government to figure out which undocumented workers were determined to stay. "During that period of time we would have found out how many people here, their roots go so deep that no amount of enforcement is going to convince them to voluntarily deport. I don't know what that number would be," he said.
Asked if those who remained would be given amnesty, he smiled and said, "I would avoid sending them a message on the first day that if they just hang on that they'll get amnesty. I want the maximum number to self-deport."