The GOP???s immigration nuclear option

President Obama will announce his long-awaited immigration plan on Thursday evening, and it???s expected the president will, at the very least, make an effort to single-handedly legalize at least 3 million illegal aliens who have children that are U.S. citizens.

Republicans will have to respond quickly with a plan of their own in order to win the crucial media messaging battle.

While there are a multitude of ways the GOP could handle the upcoming political war over immigration, none of the options currently considered seem to offer much hope. No matter how Republicans respond, they will inevitably be labeled ???bigots,??? ???racists,??? and ???uncompassionate.???

Conservatives have seen this movie before ??? and not just on immigration. Republicans routinely lose these public relations fights, and there???s little reason to believe that the media will be sympathetic this time around to the whole ???we must follow the rule of law??? argument.

Other than just giving in to the president???s demands, are there any good strategies that the GOP could utilize to avoid political disaster? I believe there???s at least one.

Despite recent claims made by Obama and his fellow Democrats, the American people overwhelmingly support strong, permanent border security that will prevent the illegal immigration problem from expanding, and recent indicators also reveal that Americans do not want to extend privileges to illegals without a stable and comprehensive immigration plan in place.

For instance, one Pew poll in August shows 74 percent of independents believe border security should be given a greater or equal priority compared to creating a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. The numbers were even higher for self-identified Republicans.

Additionally, 66 percent of voters in blue-as-can-be Oregon rejected a new law that would have allowed most people in the state illegally to attain driver???s licenses.

Clearly Americans are not nearly as supportive of the radical, anything-goes immigration proposal expected from President Obama as so many Democrats claim.

However, whenever the GOP battles Democrats over immigration, the bully-tactics from the media and special interest groups inevitably win the day. Instead of fighting the battle in Washington, DC and on cable news stations across the country, Republicans should allow the American people to determine this crucial question by employing a revolutionary and unheard-of strategy: a nationwide referendum.

Once Republicans take control of Congress in January, they will have the votes needed to put a bill on the president???s desk that calls for a special election to be held in the spring to decide the issue of immigration. Several plans could be offered to the people, but all, or nearly all, of the proposals should mandate that before any legalization of illegal immigrants begin, a well-designed border security infrastructure must be put in place, along with a strict timeline for completion.

The advantage to this plan is that all of the polling already indicates that the overwhelming majority of Americans support permanent border security between the U.S. and Mexico, so it???s incredibly unlikely that they would ever reject securing the border. Further, because it???s the U.S. citizenry, not Republicans in Congress, demanding the plan, any attempt by Democrats to thwart the bill could easily be explained as an attempt to violate the collective will of the American people.

If the president vetoes the attempt to hold a referendum in the first place, Republicans can attack Democrats for violating democratic principles and for thinking Americans are just too stupid to have the ability to vote on such an important topic. Either way, this is a big political win for the GOP.

There are obviously risks and disadvantages to such a radical proposal.

The first is that the American people could theoretically pass an immigration plan that doesn???t allow for border security. As I already stated, this is incredibly unlikely given all of the polling data available.

The second is that once this kind of strategy has been used by a Republican Congress, it will undoubtedly be employed by future Congresses controlled by Democrats on issues conservatives staunchly oppose.

Although the second concern is certainly a valid one, the alternative is to allow the president and Democrats to continue their absurd immigration policies that have led to millions of people coming to the United States illegally. How do you think that will play out over the next 20 years for Republicans?

The reality is that the immigration problem needs to be addressed now. Significant reforms to the system are needed. America needs strong border security (finally), a reasonable plan to assist people already living here so that they may become citizens the right way, and a better strategy for letting foreigners come to the U.S. in the first place.

America is a nation of immigrants, and we shouldn???t forget all of the incredible blessings the country has received from their contributions. We need better reforms that will make immigration for those who deserve it easier, while also ensuring we keep terrorists, criminals, and those disinterested in contributing to our nation out.

Such reforms can, of course, come out of Congress, but President Obama will likely never sign a bill that actually leads to the formation of true border security. Any attempt by Republicans to circumvent the president will also likely result in failure ??? as recent attempts have clearly shown. By putting the power in the hands of the people, Republicans will have a real chance at attaining needed reforms while also avoiding a costly political war they will probably lose.

Justin Haskins ( is an author, blogger, and an editor of publications at The Heartland Institute, a leading free-market think tank based out of Chicago, IL. You can follow him @TheNewRevere.