We Delude, You Decide
Do pols actually believe the press clips on immigration?
If it turns out that, as Heather Mac Donald has suggested, we can effectively prevent employers from hiring unauthorized foreigners, then we could bring in lots of legal guest workers (and let them become citizens) without worrying that they'd only be added on top of the existing flood of illegal workers. If the border were impervious--nobody could come in illegally--then it wouldn't matter if amnesty for existing illegals encouraged current residents of Mexico and El Salvador to come north without permission in hope of obtaining the next amnesty. They couldn't get in! Heck, if the border were really 100% protectable, employers could offer a million dollar cash reward to illegal immigrants and it would have no effect, because nobody would be able to get in to claim it.
But if the border can't be 100% sealed, the policy picture changes. Suppose enforcement proves extremely difficult, and large-scale evasion inevitable. Then we have to worry that a "path to citizenship" for existing illegals will also encourage other hundreds of thousands of other not-yet-existing, would-be illegals to find the inevitable holes in any post-amnesty enforcement regime (in the not-unreasonable hope that their presence in the U.S. will position them for another amnesty down the road). If border security can't be tightened, even with computerized Social Security checks and other strict employment safeguards, we'd probably start to suspect that the idea behind a guest worker program--that the only immigrants hired will be the regularized guest workers--is something of a fraud. Instead there will be lots of regularized legal guest workers plus all the unregularized, illegal non-guest workers.
I actually don't know if Mac Donald is right about enforcement.*** But offering any kind of semi-amnesty or guest worker program before we find out the answer is like piping water from the ocean into our basement without bothering to figure out if the pipes are strong enough to handle the flow without bursting.
Let's find out first.
**--Brooks offers a noble reason of principle for sneering at the bill: He says it "will lose [Republicans] Florida and the Southwest for a generation." Under this moral standard, liberal Democrats would have opposed civil rights in the 1960s.
***--Mac Donald is no pro-immigration activist, though if she's right it would increase the feasibility of Bush/McCain/Kennedy-style amnesty plans.
P.S.: Two bits of good news for opponents of Bush's guest worker/semi-amnesty immigration plan. 1) The New York Times has assigned Nina Bernstein to the beat. In my experience, Bernstein's the most tendentious and biased reporter on the paper--that would be the famed liberal bias--and she's almost certain to weave a cocoon that will help restrict Times readers to utter marginal irrelevance as debate proceeds. 2) According to Bernstein's March 23 comes-at-a-time paragraph, Hillary Clinton denounced Frist's bill as "tens of thousands of immigrants around the country stepped up a series of protest rallies." Protest rallies by immigrants--usually accompanied by a proud, colorful display of Mexican flags--are a proven method of hardening anti-immigrant sentiment. They're what helped put California's Prop. 187 over the top. With enough immigrant protest rallies, Rep. Tancredo will be able to pass his dream bill. ... 11:49 P.M. link
It seems to me that there are two ways to interpret this Pew poll showing opposition to gay marriage declining. 1) One interpretation is that the public is warming to the idea of gay marriage (which would be fine by me). 2) The other is that opposition to gay marriage, at 51%, is now about where it was in 2003, when 53% opposed. What it's declined from, according to Pew, is the intervening high "anti" number of
63% in February 2004, when opposition spiked following the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision and remained high throughout the 2004 election season.
In other words, Americans may or may not like gay marriage, but they really hate having gay marriage crammed down their throat by self-righteous, unelected liberal judges! What the poll shows is that the gay marriage cause is only now finally recovering from the damage done to it by Anthony Lewis' wife. ... P.S: How did Sullivan miss the Pew story? ... 9:01 P.M.
Photograph of Judith Miller on the Slate home page by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.