creators.com opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
Michael Barone
Michael Barone
18 Apr 2014
Obama Must Defend NATO's Red Lines From Putin's Aggression

Last week, masked men in camouflage garb with no insignia, dressed and equipped like Russian special forces, … Read More.

15 Apr 2014
Dems Play Politics With Bogus 77-cent Differential in Male-Female Pay

An economist serving on a second-term president's Council of Economic Advisers might expect to weigh in on … Read More.

11 Apr 2014
If You Think the Sky is Falling, Check out the Prophecies of the 1970s

Forty years is roughly the length of a working lifetime — and long enough for history to have taken … Read More.

Better Tools for Immigration Reform Than in 1986

Comment

Yesterday, as Barack Obama called for a bipartisan immigration bill in Las Vegas and Sen. Marco Rubio called for one on Rush Limbaugh's program, the chances for passage look surprisingly good.

But in some quarters — mostly from the right, but also from liberals like blogger Mickey Kaus — comes a complaint that deserves to be addressed.

We tried this once already, they say, in the 1986 immigration act. We were told that in return for legalization of illegal immigrants we would get tough border control and strict enforcement against employers who hired illegals.

We got the amnesty, these folks say, but we didn't get effective border control or workplace enforcement. We got instead a huge flow of illegals, who number 11 million now.

Why should anything be different this time? It's a reasonable question, and I think there are reasonable answers. And let's not charge anyone with racism here. After all, illegal immigrants have, by definition, done something illegal. And legalization involves some element of forgiveness.

The argument for granting legal status is that we as a nation have been complicit in tolerating a situation in which it's easy and profitable to violate the law. The price of changing that is granting legal status to otherwise unobjectionable illegals, since we can't deport 11 million people.

So what are the reasons to think such legislation would produce different results from those of the 1986 law?

Border enforcement. It's clear that we've been doing better and can do better still. Fences at some portions of the border have stopped illegal crossings, and we have unmanned aerial vehicles unavailable 25 years ago.

The eight senators' framework called for an "entry-exit system that tracks whether all persons entering the United States on temporary visas via airports and seaports have left the country as required by law."

That suggests something feasible now that wasn't back then: an identity card linked to a database with biometric identification. India is now creating such a system for its 1.2 billion people. Why can't we do that for many fewer immigrants and visa holders?

High-skill immigration. The 1986 law left intact a system with more slots for collateral relatives like siblings than for high-skill graduates.

Today, there's a big demand for the latter.

The senators' framework calls for green cards for those with U.S. advanced science, math and tech degrees. Why keep these people out? Why tie them to one employer?

Employment verification. The 1986 law didn't prevent illegals from getting fake identification. Americans on both left and right hated the idea of anything like a national identity card.

Americans today feel differently. Most of us seem content to carry cellphones that enable others to track our whereabouts at any time.

And we have the E-Verify system for employers to check the legal status of job applicants. It's working well after initial glitches, and in states with high E-Verify usage, like Arizona, illegal numbers have declined.

It could be even more effective to require identity cards with biometric links. Making it hard for illegals to get jobs would hugely reduce the incentive for illegal immigration.

Source of illegal immigrants. Nearly 60 percent of illegal immigrants come from Mexico, with which we share a 2,000-mile border. But net migration from Mexico appears to have been zero since the housing bubble burst in 2007.

We don't know whether it will resume again. But we do know (as we didn't in the decade after our free trade agreement) that Mexico's economy can grow faster than ours, as it is now.

Mexico is becoming a majority middle-class country, which reduces incentives to emigrate. I predict we'll never again see Mexican immigration of the magnitude we saw between 1982 and 2007.

If that's right, it means we won't see a wave of illegals as we saw after the 1986 law.

There were potentially significant differences between what Obama and Rubio said yesterday.

Obama wants a faster path to citizenship for illegals. Rubio insists that legalization only be triggered when enforcement is strengthened.

Putting together a comprehensive bill requires tradeoffs and compromises. Obama's 2007 Senate votes for what John McCain and Edward Kennedy called killer amendments helped defeat an immigration bill when the political stars seemed more in alignment than they do today.

Obama now could demand provisions Republicans won't accept and blame them for killing reform. It depends on whether he wants a political issue or a law.

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2013 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM



Comments

0 Comments | Post Comment
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right:  
Creators.com comments policy
More
Michael Barone
Apr. `14
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
30 31 1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 1 2 3
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Authorís Podcast
Marc Dion
Marc DionUpdated 21 Apr 2014
Deb Saunders
Debra J. SaundersUpdated 20 Apr 2014
Steve Chapman
Steve ChapmanUpdated 20 Apr 2014

5 Jul 2010 Obama Plays Election-Year Politics on Immigration

7 Apr 2011 Ryan Steals March on Obama as Fiscal Crisis Looms

22 Oct 2013 Unions Turn on Obamacare, but Don't Call Them Hypocrites