Thursday, March 29, 2007

Immigration reform chances

Here's a link to an editorial in the Register on immigration reform. A bill that combines harsher border enforcement with a path to citizenship and a guest worker program has been introduced by Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez and Arizona Republican Jeff Flake. It has more enforcement stuff than the McCain-Kennedy bill from last year, but seems to be pretty much what the administration could live with. With a majority-Democrat Congress, this just might be the only issue where Bush might be able to get legislation he likes passed.

Most congressional candidates who ran last November as harsh anti-illegal-immigrant candidates lost -- to the surprise of pundits of all shades -- so it is more than possible that the country is ready for a bill like this It would be a far better legacy for Dubya than the Iraq war.

It's hardly ideal, of course. My preference would be to let the market -- the voluntary interactions of millions of people making unforced decisions -- rather than the government, decide how many immigrants the United States "needs." The simplest way to do that would be to eliminate country immigration quotas and set up stations along the border and at international airports where would-be immigrants could be screened for infectious diseases and membership in bona fide terrorist organizations -- and sign a paper promising not to apply for taxpayer-paid benefits of any kind until they had had a chance to contribute to the tax base for a while. Five years, ten years, 200? Let's negotiate.

Not gonna happen, but it would make the immigration service an actual service (and smaller) rather than a bunch of thugs, and put the coyotes out of business.

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