Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bush Misses Opportunity on Immigration Reform

The telegraphed double head-fake of sending Natational Guardsmen to assist the Border Patrol and the temporary guest worker program will probably do little, either politically, or effectively. Both of these are ultimately focused on the incremental (nationally, anyway) effects of illegal immigration. To fix what ails the country on this point requires a different calculus. Recognizing the dignity of the migrant first could have been the master stroke to seize the agenda.

The National Guard and drawing out otherwise law-abiding denizens of the melting pot can only produce marginal benefit over the course of years. Even a wall, like for what many on the right are clamoring, will take a while and produce a northward stampede in the mean time.

Consider that both legal and illegal immigrants represent a still small percentage of the adult work force and that the economic impact of immigrants is something far less than 1% of GDP, although the burdens are concentrated in a few states. Substantially increasing the quotas for legal immigration and streamlining INS procedures will address many of these issues. It is aligned with recognizing the dignity of each human person. It reduces the incentive for immediate, massive illegal immigration. It puts more people into the system for tracking while they assimilate the culture. It provides an opportunity for the federal government to facilitate dispersing immigrants so as not to be concentrated in just a few states. It eliminates the ridiculous charge of being anti-immigrant. And it puts a little lustre back on the shining city on the hill.

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