I have long puz­zled

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

about our in­abil­ity to reach con­sen­sus on im­mi­gra­tion re­forms. I re­call that our econ­omy, when boom­ing, ac­com­mo­dated mil­lions of un­doc­u­mented work­ers (many who left as jobs be­came scarce) with lit­tle dis­rup­tion to Amer­i­can work­ers. It seemed that the prob­lems of il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion were largely associated with its il­le­gal­ity: worker ex­ploita­tion, sup­pressed wages, peo­ple liv­ing in the shad­ows. So I was puz­zled that no one seemed in­ter­ested in ex­pand­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for le­gal im­mi­gra­tion to sup­ply the work­force. Legalization seemed such an ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion that I won­dered what pow­er­ful in­ter­ests kept us from em­ploy­ing it.

The short-term an­swer lies in ty­ing flex­i­ble im­mi­gra­tion lev­els to eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors, rais­ing the min­i­mum wage to what it would have been had it kept pace with in­fla­tion and vig­or­ously en­forc­ing fair-la­bor laws and em­ployee-doc­u­men­ta­tion rules (per­haps with the same vigor we bring to mil­i­ta­riz­ing our bor­ders and fright­en­ing the vul­ner­a­ble). The pro­posal to limit le­gal im­mi­gra­tion seems des­tined not only to ham­per eco­nomic growth as more peo­ple re­tire but also to guar­an­tee that we will be­come an armed po­lice state to counter the nat­u­ral forces of sup­ply and de­mand.

As a moral is­sue, the free­dom to choose where to live seems pretty fun­da­men­tal. Es­pe­cially in re­gard to lim­it­ing care of refugees, I think our chil­dren’s chil­dren will won­der what we were think­ing the way we won­der about our fore­bears and slav­ery.

Jan Selbo, War­ren­ton

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