Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Potential for Good in the Senate Immigration Bill

But we have some questions too.  First, why the heck does the dang thing have to be over 800 pages?  My brother rightly excoriated the ACA when it was being passed for its Byzantine complexity.  This bill is only slightly shorter.

A round up of key features pulled from various news sources:

  • Provisional residency and a long, long term path to citizenship for those who were here illegally prior to January 1, 2012.  This is my least favorite part. We are going to make citizens out of those broke the law.  I am against deportations, and we need some kind of normalization, but this strikes at the rule of law. There will be a background check and a $500 fine and a fifteen year path, so I can probably live with this.  Also the DREAMers legal status will be codified into law.  
  • More money for border security, with specific metrics regarding apprehensions.  I like this a lot more.  Stopping illegal border crossers simultaneously is humane and upholds the rule of law.  I believe that Mexico's declining birth rate will also help with this issue.  There are also provisions to monitor for those overstaying their visas, another key source of illegal immigration.  The downside is that e-Verify is being resurrected and mandated.  I find it ironic that mandate the use of e-Verify got Arizona sued by the feds.
  • Expanded H-1B visas and streamlining, hooray, but with new rules about wage rates, boo. A new program for agricultural workers will be put into place, as well as other unskilled labor.  All of this will be accompanied by more federal bureaucracy to monitor labor conditions and wages and whatever.  I am happy for the increased immigration.  I am unhappy about the attendant bureaucracy and inevitable vote buying and corruption that will follow.  There is also provisions for granting visas to foreign born college students getting advanced degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). We need more such immigrants to grow our economy.
  • The bill will make it easier for spouses, children and parents to be united.  Seems good as well.  
Overall my first impression is that this is good, even if compromises were made.  I would hope that Republicans fight to reduce the number of new bureaucrats that have to be hired and streamline some of the processes that allow employers to bring in foreign workers.

I knew immigration was a done deal a couple of weeks ago when my son's monthly newsletter from UCFW-135 started touting the benefits of immigration reform (sorry, can't find the online newsletter link).  Big labor had always been the big stumbling block in my view.  When I knew they were on board, I knew a deal could get done.  

Conservatives should be in favor of immigration reform, because of our belief in limited government.  Businesses should be able to hire labor from where ever they can find it.  We must maintain the sovereignty of our borders, but overall we should have a free market in labor.  Adam Ozimek and Sean Rust make this point:
Lost in such pessimism [about immigration reform] is the usual conservative optimism about the benefits of when the government gets out of the way and lets people work and trade together in free markets. Gone is the optimism about how competition helps create a dynamic and growing economy, benefits consumers, and makes all of us, even the employees of Mom & Pop groceries, better off in the long-run. Many Republicans forget that trade and free markets are not a zero sum game; that immigrants pay taxes, buy goods, innovate, start companies, and grow the size of our economic pie. There's empirical evidence backing all this up, but Republicans are often drawn to the most pessimistic studies and interpret all of the evidence in light of strong prior beliefs about a zero sum economy where competition is a bad thing.

It indeed seems an inconsistency to oppose immigration based on static economic models when we object to the use of those models when it comes to determining the benefits of reduced tax rates. Increased legal immigration will expand our economy.  Now, if Obama would just open up federal lands for fracking, we might get a recovery in spite of the ACA and regulatory overload of this administration.

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