The United States enjoys and is benefitted by a wonderful attraction to immigrants, people who lawfully come here from other lands to live and be a part of this exceptional nation. Unfortunately, it also attracts migrants who either cross our borders or enter our ports illegally, or illegally overstay visas. No one knows how many migrants are illegally in the United States today, but the low estimate is 12 million. That’s about the population of Illinois or Pennsylvania, and more than the population of any other state except California, Florida, New York and Texas.

In 1986, President Reagan signed a law, the Simpson Mazzoli Act, advertised as if it were the be-all-and-end-all of amnesties for migrants illegally in the United States. Clean it up just this one last time and we’ll hereafter strictly enforce our nation’s laws!

The estimate was that about 1.8 million persons would “come out of the shadows” to become legal residents. In the event, some three million persons came out of the shadows. A scant four years later, Wyoming Republican U.S. Senator Alan Simpson — the Simpson of Simpson-Mazzoli — said, “Uncontrolled immigration is one of the greatest threats to the future of this country.” So much for the enforcement so grandly promised by its supporters in Congress at the time his bill was signed by the president.

They’re at it again. President Obama and the Democrat leadership in Congress are hell-bent on converting illegal migrants into legal residents. They have some Republican help. New rhetoric and new statutory language to be sure but, boiled down, it’s the same old same old with a craftily created new twist, the Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI).

I’ll dispense with details of RPI status and let the interested reader check it out on the Internet. Despite protestation to the contrary one might expect from, say, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., RPI status equals amnesty. This time the usual guesstimate is that 12 million migrants are illegally in our country; applying the Simpson-Mazzoli experience, 3-to-1.8, leads one to believe 20 million could be the reality. Perhaps more. Exceeding the population of every state except California and Texas.

McCain and three other senators (Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida ) were the Republican half of the Gang of Eight who wrote this year’s amnesty bill in the Senate, the euphemism-loaded Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.

Note that “border security” appears first. Most, reportedly including Spanish-surnamed citizens, believe it must be first in fact, not just in the bill title. Just like Simpson-Mazzoli, though, amnesty (the crafty new RPI arrangement) doesn’t await evidence of enforcement; it’s concurrent with the president’s signature on the bill. It is inconceivable to me that migrants illegally here today and granted RPI status tomorrow would not immediately enjoy (or, with the inevitable amendments and court decisions, soon enjoy) substantially all privileges of any other legal resident except a citizen’s right to vote. There will be no going back, so “provisional” is a snare and a delusion; crafty, no? RPI status would be tantamount to holding a green card.

On July 21, the Denver Post published Colorado U.S. Representative Mike Coffman’s column in which he said, “First, we must secure our borders and enforce our laws.” Right on! But three days later, on July 24, a Denver Post story included the reporter’s understanding that Rep. Coffman “believes comprehensive immigration reform — increased border security and a provisional legal status for the millions of undocumented people living in the United States now — needs to happen mostly simultaneously.” (Bolding mine.)

Wouldn’t that take us back to Simpson-Mazzoli? But maybe 20 million instead of 3 million, their illegal entry rewarded through amnesty with legal permanent residence?

George Santayana famously observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

In that same July 24 article, President Obama was quoted, “… there’s a tendency, I think, to put off the hard stuff until the end. And if you’ve eaten your dessert before you’ve eaten your meal, at least with my children, sometimes they don’t end up eating their vegetables.” This was in support of one comprehensive reform bill, say the Senate’s, in contrast to the step-by-step approach the article reported to be supported by another Colorado Republican in the U.S. House, Cory Gardner.

True to form, the president has a confused interpretation of his own adage. The vegetables needing to be eaten first are called “Enforcement.” The various stages of amnesty being proposed (e.g., “temporary provisional” residency, green cards, pathway to citizenship) are dessert that shouldn’t even come out of refrigeration in the kitchen ’til the veggies are eaten.

My research indicates that Colorado’s other two Republican U.S. representatives, Doug Lamborn and Scott Tipton, aren’t close to supporting amnesty, let alone in the absence of crystal clear evidence that enforcement has come first. Colorado’s Democrats in Congress – Sens. Mark Udall and Gang-of-Eighter Michael Bennet, and Reps. Diana DeGette, Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter – have apparently supported amnesty from the get-go.

The promise of low-wage workers and immunity from prosecution for ubiquitous illegal employment apparently has U.S. Chamber of Commerce members salivating for another amnesty. Quaking fear of alienating Hispanic voters has Republican consultants timorously clamoring for amnesty.

The Republic should not be compromised for the U.S. Chamber’s interests.

I believe the amnesty-supporting political consultants are wrong. Sixty or so years of living in New Mexico, including more than eight as chairman of the state GOP there, leave me with the conviction that Republicans cannot out-pander the Democrats to secure support from Hispanics. Some despise the presence of illegal migrants, so the GOP could actually lose support among those. Others have a variety of (mostly big-government) reasons for supporting Democrats. Sen. McCain has been pandering to voters with Spanish surnames for the nearly three decades I have known him, yet McCain’s electoral support among them is, at best, only marginally better than some other Republicans and worse than a few.

Republican obeisance to demands for comprehensive immigration reform is neither owed to the Spanish-surnamed segment of the population nor likely to win or lose its support. Republicans must earn these votes, just like others’ votes, by steadfast pursuit of the conservative principles they claim to hold dear.

I concur that the immigration-migration situation of the United States is in disarray and desperately in need of overhaul. Step-by-step is the correct approach. The hard lesson of history teaches that enforcement must be the first of those steps.