The restrictionists don't like it, but rising stars of the GOP are lining up behind "comprehensive reform." But must we have "guest workers"?
Immigration still divides the Republican Party. Its restrictionist wing occasionally gets riled up and flexes its muscles, inspiring politicians like Joe Arpaio and Tom Tancredo to seize upon the issue. But the fervor always dies down, advisers like Karl Rove reassert the importance of the Hispanic vote, and presidential aspirants -- George W. Bush and John McCain during the aughts, Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan today -- start talking about "comprehensive immigration reform," a term also embraced by liberals looking for a bipartisan deal. The business community would get a guest-worker program. Illegal immigrants would get a "path to citizenship." Restrictionists would theoretically get better border enforcement than there is today.
It isn't a deal that I like.
I'm all for more legal immigration, especially for highly skilled workers, and I want people who sneaked into the United States, worked or studied, and committed no crimes to get citizenship.
But a guest-worker program?
I'd rather permit more new citizens to come here permanently, as prospective citizens, than to institutionalize a sort of second-class non-citizenship that treats people as labor. I am here today, along with most of the restrictionists in America, because the legislators of bygone decades permitted waves of immigrants to come here legally (and not as guest workers, either -- as full citizens). When I read deep into New York City history about the crowded tenements, street gangs, ethnic machine politics, and disease outbreaks associated with the waves of European immigration, and then hear people who are far less affected complaining bitterly today about (and this is a thing) having to press one for English, I wonder, as the tiniest violins play, if they ever stop to reflect that they wouldn't be here if bygone generations were as restrictionist as they are.