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May 22, 2007

Pressing the Reset Button

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

I must say, it's nice to be able to take a break from the political fight and talk policy and legislative strategy for a moment.

Now that the immigration compromise seems to have pleased no one, it's worth examining politically feasible alternatives. And I don't share Ezra's optimism [despite his bang-up reporting] that the bill will improve in the House. The top House GOP leaders, John Boehner (D-OH) and Roy Blunt (D-MO) routinely earn low marks from pro-immigration interest groups and high marks from border control zealots; they're not inclined to vote for anything, and many members of their caucus don't want to see a bill at all. No Republican running for President wants to see a bill that includes citizenship [come out for it and you'll lose the primary; come out against it and you'll put Texas into swing territory]. What's more, an decent number of Democrats would rather not vote for citizenship; remember, before the '06 elections, 44 Democrats held districts that Bush won in 2004, and that number has only gone up since. That leaves everyone hoping to get enough business backing to convince enough "moderate" Republicans to vote for it, and then get the President to sign it while House Republicans scream bloody murder. Count me down as skeptical.

With the guest worker provisions pissing off everyone, one option is simply to drop the guest worker provisions, plus some of the goofier steps in the green card application process (like the touch-back), and vote on enforcement plus normalization for everyone illegally living in the US today. If illegal immigration slows, then you're done. If it doesn't, then you just have a third bill on immigration in 20 years.

That's not a perfect solution, but if citizenship isn't on the table, we're left with a choice between the status quo on one hand and reinstituting the bracero program on the other. Is there any reason to prefer one of those options to the other?

May 22, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

But one of the good things that would hopefully flow from a real solution to the immigration issue would be a reduced number of illegal immigrants crossing the border and dying of dehydration, being raped and or robbed by the coyote, etc. Free bonus, reducing the number of economic migrants would probably do as much for the security of the southern border as all the fencing and extra guards and whatnot by freeing the resources to chase bad guys rather than broke guys.

I'm really inclined to expand legal immigration, increase employment enforcement, and let those who have broken the law twist in the breeze. Right now it is almost impossible for a poor person in Mexico to legally emigrate to the United States. But we have set a precedent that if you break the law and hide out long enough we'll hand you a green card. Making obeying the law something other than a sucker's choice is the first step to really enforcing it. We get the border and the employers corralled then we can talk about the 12 million who chose to break the law.

Posted by: Don | May 22, 2007 5:24:11 PM

Nick, I agree with you that it's unlikely the bill will be improved very much if it's going to pass, though it makes sense to fight for improvements. Dropping the temporary worker part would turn off the very business backing you rightly point out is needed to get the bill passed. It would also remove a major part of the check on illegal immigration. If there will be several hundred thousand of these temporary visas available, it will start to make more sense to get one than to try to enter illegally. That's especially true with the new employer penalties, which are steep for repeat violations. While not ideal, indeed, while very problematic, the temporary worker program is a necessary part of this bill. The best thing to hope for is that the program will be improved when its problems become more evident, several years down the road.

There will be at least a bit of conservative Republican support for the bill. Chris Cannon of Utah, for example, will vote for it. He thinks others can be brought on board with the special provisions for farm laborers.

Posted by: Sanpete | May 22, 2007 7:07:58 PM

"If there will be several hundred thousand of these temporary visas available, it will start to make more sense to get one than to try to enter illegally. That's especially true with the new employer penalties, which are steep for repeat violations."

Sorry, but its not that simple. This bill is not designed to decrease illegal immigration, its designed to give amnesty to a new voting block and give greedy corporate CEOS access to their slave labor pool.

Havent you noticed McCain's smug smile while talking abuot the "enforcement" measures of this bill? He knows damn well the executive branch wont enforce ANY of it.

BTW, you do know that EXISTING law already give "steep" fines to businesses that hire illegals right? Thats obviously been a smashing success in terms of enforcement hasnt it?

This new law will do nothing to decrease illegal immigration. Why pay $5,000 and go back to your home country to become "legal" when you get the same benefits (except voting) by just walking across the border?

Posted by: joe blow | May 22, 2007 7:43:41 PM

They played a clip on NPR of Kennedy speaking against an amendment to take out the guest worker program, and the amendment failed.

Joe, as usual, you greatly exaggerate. There are various reasons the present penalties aren't enforced vigorously, including that business is divided over whether to push for enforcement. With the temporary workers readily available, businesses that support the law will increase, and will put more pressure on to weed out bad practices that undermine their own good practices. Maybe more important is that the older penalties are also much harder to enforce than the new, due to the need to show lack of due diligence. With new cards and check system, it will be hard to avoid the penalties.

The new fines will be $5,000 per illegal for the first offense, $25,000 each for a second offense, and $75,000 each for a third.

Temporary workers, by the way, won't have to pay $5,000 for their visas. That's only for those applying for those already here illegally applying for permanent residency or citizenship, who will indeed have little choice but to get into the legalization process.

Posted by: Sanpete | May 22, 2007 8:31:45 PM

I think it's extremely unclear at this point whether the scorching opposition coming from the right, combined with various interest groups nibbling from a variety of different directions, hasn't already finished off the bill's chances. I'd say it doesn't look good. It won't take much "improving" for the fairly fragile coalition on this bill to start falling apart, and it strikes me that's what holding the pro votes for this together is really rather slender.

Posted by: weboy | May 22, 2007 10:41:56 PM

What Sanpete said.

While the guest worker provision is highly imperfect in its current form, its passage would establish an important precedent. By allowing at least some degree of economic migration from Latin America (currently this is essentially impossible for Latinos who lack family in the US), we should, in theory, "convert" much of our illegal immigration influx into a legal, regulated stream of permitted workers.

If what you want to do is reduce illegal immigration, this proposal is a modest (and pretty flawed, to be sure) step in the right direction. If what you want is to reduce immigration in general, you'd probably best not support it.

Posted by: Jasper | May 22, 2007 11:37:35 PM

"The top House GOP leaders, John Boehner (D-OH) and Roy Blunt (D-MO)..."

Since as your sentence points out, both these are Republicans, I'm left to assume that the "D" after their names stands for "Doofus."

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Posted by: judy | Oct 8, 2007 8:02:01 AM

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