More Immigration

I continue to be skeptical about this deal. One issue is Daniel Davies' dictum that "Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance". This is applicable to, say, this RNC press release lauding the bill:

No Amnesty For Illegal Immigrants: Illegal immigrants who come out of the shadows will be given probationary status. Once the border security and enforcement benchmarks are met, they must pass a background check, remain employed, maintain a clean criminal record, pay a $1,000 fine, and receive a counterfeit-proof biometric card to apply for a work visa or "Z visa." Some years later, these Z visa holders will be eligible to apply for a green card, but only after paying an additional $4,000 fine; completing accelerated English requirements; getting in line while the current backlog clears; returning to their home country to file their green card application; and demonstrating merit under the merit-based system.

Now, look, this is an amnesty. But instead of being a well-designed amnesty, it's one where, as Atrios says, we're adding useless epicycles in order to enhance the plausibility of the "don't call it an amnesty" line. Much better to do the thing properly, even if that runs the risk of being forced to call a spade a spade.

Dana Goldstein says the bill is "better than nothing" which it may well be, but that's not really a reason to support it. Insofar as the political dynamic produces a polarized choice between pro- and anti-immigration positions, the business community -- i.e. the constituency for guest worker programs -- is going to need to side with the pro-immigration view. There's no reason to accept a giant guest worker program as part of a political compromise. Things should move in the other direction. A skill-based immigration regime, which the bill apparently moves toward, is a good idea and should persuade us to get rid of the H-1B high-tech version of indentured sevitude and instead embrace the idea of letting high-skill workers immigrate legally through normal channels.

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

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