Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Next, a brief thought about the administration's immigration proposal.
National Review has put on its cover the words, "Against Amnesty," but Bush hasn't proposed amnesty. He's proposed something more radical: the creation of a true open-border policy for employment purposes. Let everyone come, with no restrictions on numbers, so long as they can get jobs. Then let 'em get on line to earn the right to citizenship. Let the INS, which would no longer have to do anything about processing applications to come work here, focus on keeping out criminals and terrorists.
It remains to be seen, of course, how you retool the INS to do that absolutely essential job. But otherwise, if you're an enthusiast for open borders, this is your plan, and it is arguably quite responsive to the law-and-order concerns raised by illegal immigration.
The only thing missing from his vision is the elimination of birthright citizenship. If you let everyone come for a job, then have kids here who become instant citizens, you've really just let in an infinite number of new citizens, not just guest-workers. But posit that we eliminate birthright citizenship, and reinterpret the 14th Amendment to mean that citizens are children of citizens, not of tourists or guestworkers. If you appended that proision, Bush's proposal would make perfect sense on its own terms.
Of course, it is a disaster if you care about the immigration question from the perspective of protecting the wages of less-skilled Americans. Or if you worry about the environmental consequences of continued population growth. Or if you worry about the cultural consequences of a huge, permanent non-citizen caste doing most of the dirty work in our society.
But that's the new grounds for debate. Bush is calling the bluff of those who are concerned about illegal immigration. Bush proposes to make mass immigration legal. Not just for current, illegal residents (that would be amnesty), but for as many more as want to come in the future. Now we can debate the core question: is mass immigration - assuming we can keep out the crooks, terrorists and freeloaders - a good thing or a bad thing for America?