Tag Archives: Gang of Eight

The Gang of 8 immigration deal

I’m not a political junkie (anymore) and I try not to follow all the feints and counter-offers and posturing and whatnot that comprises so much of political discourse, but at this point the momentum for immigration reform in Washington seems really to be bearing fruit. A deal has been made. The New York Times celebrates:

Huge news from the scorched desert of immigration reform: germination!

At last there is a bill, the product of a bipartisan group of senators who have been working on it for months, that promises at least the hope of citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. It is complicated, full of mechanisms and formulas meant to tackle border security, the allocation of visas, methods of employment verification and the much-debated citizenship path…

There will be much to chew on in coming weeks, but it is worth a moment to marvel at the bill’s mere existence, and at the delicate balancing of competing interests that coaxed this broad set of compromises into being…

The bill gets around the “amnesty” stalemate by turning the undocumented into Registered Provisional Immigrants — not citizens or green-card holders, but not illegal, either. They will wait in that anteroom for a decade at least before they can get green cards. But they will also work, and travel freely. The importance of legalizing them, erasing the crippling fear of deportation, cannot be overstated.

Yes! Deportation is a particular disgraceful feature of the American polity, and it will be a tremendous moral relief to have it, if not permanently and generally abolished, at least abolished for most of the millions who live under the threat of it now. The Times deplores the length and difficulty of the path to citizenship:

That said, a decade-plus path is too long and expensive. The fees and penalties stack up: $500 to apply for the first six years of legal status, $500 to renew, then a $1,000 fine. If the goal is to get people on the books and the economy moving, then shackling them for years to fees and debt makes no sense.

The means of ejection from the legalization path, too, cannot be arbitrary and unjust — people should not be disqualified for minor crimes or failure to meet unfair work requirements. It should not take superhuman strength and rectitude, plus luck and lots of money, for an immigrant to march the 10 years to a green card.

Here I’m ambivalent, except about the “means of ejection” sentence. You can’t justly deport someone just because they don’t want a job, and to deport someone for, say, a speeding ticket, is a violation of just proportionality. My sympathies lie with a relatively short and easy path to citizenship. But reason tells me that if your goal is an immigration regime that is simultaneously incentive-compatible and humane, you can’t make the path to citizenship easy. And $500 here and $1,000 there are nothing compared to the income gains that immigrants to the US typically enjoy, though I’d prefer to see money extracted from immigrants in the form of taxes attached to earnings rather than as lump-sum fines and fees, so we can raise more revenue from those doing relatively well while mitigating the hardship we cause for the poorest immigrants. Continue reading “The Gang of 8 immigration deal” »

Heightening the contradictions

I hope this becomes law and all…

Report: Senate immigration plan sets deportation timeframe

The bipartisan Senate immigration plan would deport immigrants who illegally entered the U.S. after 2011, a Senate aide told Reuters on Friday.

The plan would give most of the approximately 11 million unauthorized immigrants a way to stay in the U.S. and eventually seek citizenship — but those who entered the country since the beginning of 2012 would have to leave, according to the staffer.

“People need to have been in the country long enough to have put down some roots. If you just got here and are illegal, then you can’t stay,” the aide said.

The bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators is working out the final details of a broad-ranging immigration reform bill, with hopes to unveil it on Tuesday so the Judiciary Committee can begin to examine it on Wednesday. Sources say major policy differences have been ironed out.

“I don’t see, looking forward the next few days, any major barrier in the way,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has led the immigration talks, said earlier this week.

Negotiators had hoped to unveil the legislation this week, but it slipped down the Senate agenda following Wednesday’s announcement of a deal on gun violence legislation.

The bill would increase border security, give unauthorized citizens permanent legal status and offer some a pathway to citizenship after 13 years, increase the number of high-skilled visas and create a guest-worker program for low-skilled immigrants. Both business and labor coalitions have been involved in the negotiations and are still on board.

… but it still leaves large, seemingly unanswerable questions about implementation and justice. First, the 2011 date is clearly arbitrary. No one could claim it was OK to immigrate with documents before 2011 but wrong thereafter. Second, how do you check whether people arrived in 2011 and after? Of course, everyone will have a strong incentive to say they arrived sooner. Third, the same compelling reasons of humanity and commonsense which motivate this amnesty will obviously still be around to motivate future amnesties. Indeed, an amnesty now (sorry for the politically incorrect terminology) will only further undermine the strange 20th-century national socialist notion that it’s somehow morally acceptable to seize by force a person who has done no one any harm, rip them out of their family and community, and ship them off to some country they don’t want to go to just because they happen to have been born there and weren’t issue some document by a consular official with whom none of the parties concerned (friends, relatives, landlords, etc.) are even acquainted. Fourth, because this amnesty will surely create greater expectations of future amnesties, it will increase the incentives for more people to come in anticipation of future amnesties. I’m all in favor of that. I support the amnesty as a means of incentivizing the next wave of undocumented immigration, as much as out of humanity and decent hospitality towards those who have arrived already. But at the end of the day, the norms and values and behaviors and assumptions of a decent society just cannot be reconciled with the practical aspect of migration restrictionism, and amnesty won’t solve the problem, but will only heighten the contradictions.