Monday, May 28, 2007

Immigration stirrings

As is hardly surprising, the immigration "compromise" hammered out by Democratic and Republican Senators has received condemnation from almost all sides. Even Peggy Noonan over at the Wall St. Journal has essentially adopted the Pat Buchanan position: Close the borders effectively until we have absorbed (and hopefully Americanized) the immigrants that have come in the last 20 years or so, though she mentions her personal admiration of immigrants she has met and her conviction that on belance they are enriching the country.

I do agree with one aspect of her column, her contention that "we should set ourselves to the Americanization of the immigrants we have. They haven't only joined a place of riches, it's a place of meaning. We must teach them what it is they've joined and why it is good and what is expected of them and what is owed. We stopped Americanizing ourselves 40 years ago. We've got to start telling the story of our country again." I don't know just how possible that is, though the story is still there and still inspiring. Who is the "we" that will teach "them?"

Meanwhile, there's fascinating news in the latest NYT/CBS poll. The poll didn't ask respondents about the bill itself, but did test most of its major provisions. Lo and behold, "large majorities expressed support for measures in the legislation ..."

Specifically, "two-thirds of those polled said illegal immigrants who had a good employment history and no criminal record should gain legal status as the bill proposes..." And "Two-thirds of Americans in the survey favored creating a guest worker program for future immigrants."

It looks a bit as if the political class is so polarized on immigration that no resolution is possible, even as most Americans favor a resolution that at least resembles the Senate compromise bill. I don't know if this apparent consensus will ever be effectively communicated to the political class, which has more invested in current positions than in future compromises.

As I've mentioned before, however, although this compromise is hardly what I would prefer in an ideal world (though the fact that a quarter of those polled in the NYT/CBS poll say "the United States should open its borders to all immigrants," essentially my position, is interesting but counterbalanced by the fact that a quarter think the borders should just be closed) it may offer the best hope of an imperfect but workable-for-the-moment resolution. Those who simply reject this compromise rather than trying to work with it are essentially casting a vote in favor of the status quo, which most of them say is unacceptable. Curious.

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