May 18, 2007
In a reasonably healthy political system, there might be good reason to hope for a comprehensive reform of immigration policy in this country, one that would accommodate socio-economic realities without violating the American people's basic sense of justice. In our present-day world, however, the best we can probably hope for is awkward, incremental policy changes to narrow the gap between Law and Fact. Yesterday President Bush and several leaders in the Senate announced a comprehensive immigration reform package that seems just a little too ambitious too work. The Washington Post summarizes its main provisions thusly:
The Senate deal would grant temporary legal status to virtually all illegal immigrants in the country, while allowing them to apply for residence visas and eventual citizenship. A temporary-worker program would allow as many as 400,000 migrants into the country each year, but they would have to leave after two years.
Yeah, right. As I argued in February 2006:
Any "guest worker program" should be accompanied by a suitable increase in funding to adequately monitor those who are supposedly here on a temporary basis; otherwise, it will become a cynical charade.
Unless Bush wants to raise taxes to pay for enforcing these measures, I don't think they will be taken seriously. Requiring undocumented immigrants who seek full legal status (the proposed "Z-Visa") to pay a $5,000 fine plus $1,500 fees over a period of several years sounds about right to me, but as for the "path to citizenship," I do not think it should be easy or certain. If we don't make it clear that U.S. citizenship is a supreme privilege, other countries will continue to lose respect for us. I suppose the compromise proposal deserves a chance, but I'm not getting my hopes up that it will satisfy either side. I am quite certain that most immigrants, legal or otherwise, will strongly oppose any policy change short of broad amnesty, and I'm wondering if there are enough strong leaders like Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo to stand up to their pressure. Sadly, most Americans these days are too apathetic about national politics to voice an opinion.
Here in Virginia, the Sayre for State Senate campaign recently sent out a mailing with the loud title, "It's time to crack down on illegal immigration." The unsettling emphasis on using law enforcement tools (as if to say "Round 'em all up!") made me wonder if this issue is more about getting votes or about tackling a vexing conundrum. Nevertheless, I do agree wholeheartedly with this general statement from his Web site:
Those who violate the law by entering this country illegally are diminishing the American Dream for those who have, with patience and commitment, pursued a path to citizenship in a legal manner.
Let's look at Mr. Sayre's specific policy proposals, as contained in the campaign flyer and his Web site:
I just hope that Mr. Sayre's position on this issue is is genuine; I cringe whenever I hear the phrase "cracking down." As I wrote on February 3,
Many people forget that cracking down on illegal immigrants forces them to lay low, which has the effect of making it easier for sleazy businesses to exploit them. Nothing could be more cruel or cynical.
UPDATE: Conservative darling Fred Thompson, writing at nationalreview.com, pokes holes in the "comprehensive" approach to immigration reform, observing that the compromise package is so complicated that hardly anyone really understands it. Exactly. "No matter how much lipstick Washington tries to slap onto this legislative pig, it's not going to win any beauty contests." (via Instapundit)