Sunday, November 19, 2006

Immigration reform

Apropos my question of whether Democrats would really start moving on immigration reform, there is an article by Tamar Jacoby in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. Right away, it argues something I’ve been saying for a while:

In fact, the nation is far less divided on immigration, legal or illegal, than the current debate suggests. In the last six months, virtually every major media outlet has surveyed public attitudes on the issue, and the results have been remarkably consistent. Americans continue to take pride in the United States' heritage as a nation of immigrants. Many are uneasy about the current influx of foreigners. But an overwhelming majority -- between two-thirds and three-quarters in every major poll -- would like to see Congress address the problem with a combination of tougher enforcement and earned citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already living and working here.

The thrust of the article is that now with the elections behind it, Congress will likely move quickly to address immigration. It provides a really good analysis of the U.S. economy’s need for labor, the futility of enforcement-only policies, etc.

These facts are stark, and those who buy into the comprehensive vision see no point in quarreling with them. Rather than seeking to repeal the laws of supply and demand -- or trying futilely to block them, as current policy does -- reformers want an immigration policy that acknowledges and makes the most of these realities.

The only problem is that she never addresses her initial premise: that Congress will start working on reform. At the beginning of the essay, she writes:

The political stars will realign, perhaps sooner than anyone expects, and when they do, Congress will return to the task it has been wrestling with: how to translate the emerging consensus into legislation to repair the nation's broken immigration system.

But she then takes this as self-evident, and never gets back to it. Why is it obvious that Congress will tackle it? There is a vocal minority against it, and therefore it will be tempting to avoid it. Nonetheless, if you're interested in the debate it is a nice, concise analysis.


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