"A Leg Up": Majority Leader Bill Frist makes time on one of the busier legislative days of his career to talk to Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) and his wife Helen. (You don't need an iPod to listen to the podcast. Low-fi version here.) Frist trashes the McCain-Kennedy approach to immigration:
[McCain-Kennedy] gives what is known as amnesty--generally you're giving the people who broke the law illegally a leg up on the 3 million people who are outside of our country waiting in line today in a legal wayto come into this country.
Right. And why doesn't the vaunted compromise Frist has now endorsed also give at least 7 million people who broke the law a leg up? (See "Deal Would Put Millions on Path to Citizenship"). Actually, it's probably more like 10 out of the 11 million who'd get a leg up, if I read the descriptions of the Hagel/Martinez compromise correctly.** ... Remember, even if they are required to go to the end of the queue, the illegal entrants effectively get to wait in the queue while working here, living here, using our schools, hospitals, roads, civil liberties, police, etc. Who wouldn't want that "leg up"? ... P.S.: There's also the point made by Paul Mirengoff--that the deal provides "the certainty of benefits for illegal aliens with only the promise of future enforcement." ... (Possible compromise: Officially delay the starting date of the benefits in the law until one or two years after enforcement efforts have reached specified goals--fence built, employee identity verification in place, etc.. Of course, that would still raise Latino hopes and put tremendous pander-pressure on the future politicians who'd have to declare that the pre-ordained enforcement standards had been met. On the other hand, it would in theory use those hopes to put pressure on employers and the INS to actually make the enforcement system effective--unlike what happened after the 1986 immigration reform, when the enforcement half of the deal was undermined by the very civil rights and ethnic lobbies now calling for amnesty, and allowed to quickly collapse.)...
**-- 5:00 P.M.Update: "No Illegal Alien Left Behind" On the Senate floor now, Sen. Jeff Sessions is in the process of demonstrating, with surprising authority, that even the "compromise" provisions saying--according to the NYT--that immigrants who've been here "less than two years ... would be required to leave the country" are phony. Sessions claims those immigrants would likely qualify for an expanded number of temporary worker visas. There would be no deterrent "demonstration effect" of a fraction of the 11 million illegals actually having to leave. ... See also John O'Sullivan. ....3:40 P.M.
Samuelson Caves? On March 8, Robert Samuelson wrote a highly-effective immigration column concluding
If we control new inflows, we should legalize the illegal immigrants already here.
The paradox this sentence hides, of course, is the near-certainty that if we "legalize the illegal immigrants already here" it will make it much harder to "control new inflows," because it will send a message to potential future illegals that if they sneak into the country they, too, are likely to be legalized in some future amnesty--and they certainly aren't likely to be kicked out. (That's the signal many current illegals got from the 1986 amnesty, and it's looking like they interpreted it correctly.) We'd have a lot more people trying to get in that we'd have to try to stop than if there were no legalization. ... Similar paradoxes abound in, yes, welfare reform. For example, if you offer every current welfare recipient elaborate job training that qualifies them for high-paying work, they might get off welfare. That sounds good! But it also creates an incentive for people not yet on welfare to go on welfare and get the elaborate job training. ...
Samuelson initiailly papered over this "incentive paradox" by suggesting--with the word "if"--that the borders would be controlled before the perverse amnesty incentive was put in place. That's why it's distressing to see him abandon this condition in his most recent column, which seems to advocate granting amnesty before we know whether we can control inflows or not. ... 3:09 A.M. link
The Full Kabuki: On immigration, the stage is set for a classic Washington stalemate in which all the actors--at least the Republican actors--get to position themselves as advocating their desired brand of bold action, and nothing gets done. In this scenario, 1) the Senate passes a relatively liberal compromise offering full "earned" amnesty/citizenship for 7 million illegals, legalized status for another 3 million and continued illegality for the 1 million most recent arrivals. That lets national Republicans argue that they haven't been anti-Latino, or at least muddle the issue. Frist gets Strange New Respect. ... Meanwhile, 2) the House has already passed its seemingly extra-tough enforcement-only measure, allowing House Republicans to mobilize a still-angry conservative base in their races and maybe retain control of that chamber. ... Finally, 3) the House and Senate fail to agree on a compromise bill, allowing the status quo to remain for another year, which doesn't displease American businesses addicted to cheap illegal immigrant labor, who continue to write checks to fund GOP campaigns. ... As Charles Peters has written, in Washington, "Make Believe = Survival." ... P.S: Then, if it looks as if voters are going to punish Republicans for not actually passing anything, House members can panic and implore their Senate colleagues to pass a milder common-denominator enforcement-only bill later in the year. ... P.P.S.: Note that even Jacob Weisberg, arguing for keeping the sloppy status quo, nevertheless favors at least some tougher enforcement actions against employers. Why not add the House bill's new "electronic verification" requirement and increased employer fines, etc. if this is "the one step that would surely make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to find work here and thereby address the unfairness issue much more efficiently than tighter border security would"? ... 2:26 A.M. link
Frist Thought, Best Thought: The communication stream of obvious cheap punning headlines has now come into sharp focus: