I’m a well-documented squish on the subject of immigration, but we’re in a weird place today where people’s thoughts about the upsides and downsides of “immigration”–which is a very broad subject–have been completely conflated with a much narrower question about a single immigration bill, of which the primary question is whether or not to amnesty a discrete population of illegal immigrants who already reside in America. You could, theoretically, be all in favor of increased STEM visas opening the legal pathway for new immigrants over the next decade, but be against the current amnesty bill, and you are hence classified as “anti-immigration.” Which is telling.
But more telling is the manner in which many of the supporters are attempting to sell the bill. For starters, we have liberal writers ranging from Jonathan Chait to Al Hunt–not to mention Congressional Democrats such as Bob Menendez–claiming that passing the current bill is necessary for the continued political success of the Republican party. On the merits, this claim is utterly unconvincing. The fact that the political expediency argument is being raised so vociferously by political opponents of the Republican party is, like the weird framing above, also telling.
Then you have Republican proponents of the bill making demographic arguments which are either beside the point, or intentionally misleading.
And finally there’s the discussion about what’s actually in the bill itself:
The key items, according to reports and sources, are: A doubling of the size of the border patrol, to 40,000 agents. Seven hundred miles of border fence. A requirement that the security plan submitted by the Department of Homeland Security include provisions — such as those above — mandated by Congress. All of these would be “triggers” that would have to be achieved before the path to citizenship can start.
But — and this is big – the provision sought by conservatives such as John Cornyn, that 90 percent apprehension be achieved as a “hard trigger,” is no longer in the deal as a precondition for citizenship. As the Times puts it: “Republicans agreed to make the 90 percent figure a goal rather than a requirement.” The key is that additional Republicans beyond the gang of eight — such as Bob Corker and John Hoeven — appear prepared to accept this.
Leading immigration advocate Frank Sharry, who was briefed on the emerging deal, tells me Dems successfully beat back Republican demands for inclusion of the 90 percent “hard trigger.” And so Sharry’s group, America’s Voice, can support the deal, albeit reluctantly.
“The deal is ridiculous from a policy point of view — it’s excessive and wasteful,” Sharry tells me. “But from a political point of view, if it brings 10 or 11 Senate Republican votes, we’ll probably will be able to live with it.”
In other words, some of the pro-reform forces aren’t even pretending that the language in the bill is being offered in good faith.
It’s this “good faith” part which is so worrisome to anyone who likes immigration in general, but is ill-at-ease with this bill. Because everywhere you look on the pro-reform side, you see people operating in what does not look like good faith at all.
Strip away all questions about policy merit and wisdom and just focus on the raw politics here for a moment. It makes you wonder how Republicans could ever get themselves suckered into voting for such a thing.
But then again, the Republican party signs on with stupid all the time.