Why I mildly support the immigration bill
the current situation is failing and we need to face the political reality that we no longer control the agenda
By Charles Bird Posted in Immigration — Comments (55) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
There are lot of things I don't like about the immigration bill. The guest worker program looks like a failure waiting to happen and--like the current surge strategy in Iraq--there are signficant unknowns that need to move in the right direction in order for us to say that it's a success. But in looking at the overall benefits and the overall costs, I come out mildly in favor of the legislation. I'm basing my judgments on the White House fact sheet here and a MS Word summary of the bill here. I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority among the other Redstate moderators and the directorship, but the GOP is a big-tent party and I would expect the same of Redstate.com and its commentariat. So here goes my reasoning.
The current situation is untenable. There are 12 million reasons to explain why the current laws and current policies have failed. The existing law is not being adequately enforced, there is no real mechanism for moving immigrants from illegal to legal status, border security is porous, employers are seeking cheap immigrant labor and illegal immigrants are motivated to work for those cheap-labor-seeking employers. There is neither the money nor the political will to ramp up enforcement of existing law, and this is why the "enforce the law" appeals from the anti-bill folks are unrealistic. Trying to deport all the illegals immediately or over a number of years is fantasyland. There are many reasons why the current law failed, and those reasons have not gone away.
If "kill the bill version one" succeeds, then who knows when better legislation will happen. November 2006 changed everything. The GOP doesn't control the legislative agenda anymore, the president's agenda is stymied because of 30% to 35% approval ratings, and the Democrats are too partisan to let a clean GOP bill come to the floor. What's more, there's no assurance that we will regain the majority in either house of congress in the coming years, so who knows when the next opportunity for decent immigration reform will come about. The Democrats in general don't seem particularly concerned with border security or that 12 million are breaking the law by inhaling and exhaling on our soil, so don't expect much to come from them.
If the bill gets shot down, we get zero miles of security fence, no additional border agents, no UAVs, and 12 million still remain here illegally. The incentives that lure illegals to the United States do not go away, and the disincentives that inhibit illegal border crossings do not get implemented. While the antis may feel good about killing the legislation, the conditions that brought us 12 million illegal immigrants remain in full force and effect, and there is no reason that 12 million couldn't rise to 20 million a few years hence. To me, such a "victory" would be pyhrric.
With the bill, we get more border security and it starts right away. In its most recent form, we get 370 miles of fence and 18,000 more border agents and additional monitoring capabilities. We'd all be better off with more than twice that many miles, but the question is, why kill the bill and get zero miles when we can exhort our GOP members to push for 870 miles?
It seems to me like we'd all be better off if we organized a lobbying effort to support changes to the proposed bill rather than kill it altogether. We're not without influence here, especially when you consider that congressmen, presidential candidates and White House representatives are stopping by to make their views known.
Increased penalties and enhanced employment verification. Title III covers that. This is the part where most people agree with the language but have concerns about whether the law will actually be put into practice. In effect, the objection is "yes, it sounds good but I don't believe the feds will live up to their end of the bargain." I share that concern, and my confidence ranges from scant to none that the Bush administration will do a good job of it. But just as I am mildly optimistic that we can turn things around in Iraq, I am also mildly optimistic that workplaces can be adequately enforced under the new visa system. It depends on the quality of the men or women whom Bush will appoint to manage the effort.
This part of the bill is just as critical as border security. To me, the immigration issue is a supply AND demand problem. Good border security addresses the supply of illegal immigrants, and good workplace enforcement will help dampen the demand for illegals to come here. If an employer refuses to hire someone who doesn't produce a Z card, then that illegal won't find work and might as well go back home.
A population the size of Missouri is officially recognized. Provided that Z visas are sufficiently tamper-proof and forgery-proof, illegal immigrants are brought out of limbo and can more fully assimilate. Such a measure acknowledges an unfortunate reality. Immigrants came here illegally and the population is so vast that there's damn little we can do about it. As Kerri Rushton from White House noted, Z-visa applicants have to pay fees to get a visa and pay additional fees to renew. The price for staying may be relatively cheap, but it's not amnesty, by the very definition of the word. To call the bill "amnesty" is inaccurate and does nothing to persuade, especially if the person is undecided and has a copy of the bill and a dictionary handy.
Like with the security fences, rather than kill the bill, why not support changing it? Why not try to raise the cost of a Z visa. After all, it looks like the payment of back taxes was taken off the table, so this would be a perfect reason to double the Z visa fees, for example.
Like with workplace enforcement, there is a concern with the administration and enforcement of Z visas.
The guest worker program should be whacked. Title IV looks unwieldy and unworkable. Two years in-country and one year out looks totally arbitrary, and I get nervous when our federal government is making decisions about what market demand will be.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. In my view, the bill has dysfunctional aspects, but there are enough attributes in the plus-column to put me in favor of it, but not by much. You get extra credit in the comment section by engaging in discussion without using misnomers such as "amnesty".