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Ah, Compromise

Thinking more about immigration policy, Mark Krikorian outlines the sort of compromise he'd think about:

But if they wanted a genuine compromise that would lead to amnesty, they needed to pair it with an end to future mass immigration — not just (theortically) re-orienting a portion of the family visas at some distant point in the future, but abolishing them now, along with deep cuts in employment-based and refugee immigration as well.

This sort of thing, I think, is what makes compromise so hard to come by. It's genuinely ridiculous, in my opinion, that we accept the level of illegal immigration that we have right now. It's ridiculous, rather than just plain bad, because it seems we could put a stop to it fairly easily. The basic shape of a crackdown-plus-amnesty compromise makes a ton of sense. The restrictionist view that implementation of an amnesty should be conditional on some evidence that the cracking down is having an impact makes sense. And with that framework in place, we could then allow for the level of immigration to the United States to be set by law in a manner of our choosing.

At this point, though, efforts at compromise totally break down. Mark Krikorian is upset about high levels of illegal immigration because he's upset about high levels of immigration. He's afraid of the looming Hispanic Pizza Menace. I, on other hand, have no such concerns. It seems undesirable to me to have large numbers of people living and working in the country illegally, but I have no problem with large numbers of people coming here from around the world to live and work. If I were dictator, we would step up enforcement, then have an amnesty, then raise the levels of legal immigration. Compromise efforts, however, keep trying blur the lines between people who want to reduce illegal immigration as part of an effort to reduce the number of foreign-born people in the United States, and people who want to reduce illegal immigration as part of an effort to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the country, people whose status has become a large moral and practical problem.

It's hard, however, to see legislation that could actually embody those goals -- they're too much in conflict.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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