To­ward im­mi­gra­tion com­pro­mise

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

The five weeks re­main­ing in this leg­isla­tive ses­sion, once Congress re­turns from its Au­gust re­cess, will likely be the last op­por­tu­nity Congress will have for sev­eral years to en­act ac­cept­able im­mi­gra­tion re­form. A weak­ened Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity would have lit­tle en­thu­si­asm for re­form; a weak Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity would have none. Fac­ing this im­passe, Rep. Mike Pence of In­di­ana has pro­vided what we think is a use­ful approach to com­pro­mise. This is not an en­dorse­ment of his bill, which as drafted in­cludes fa­tal flaws. But, with con­tin­ued chaos on the south­ern border un­ac­cept­able, we have reached the mo­ment when both sides must make con­ces­sions to close that border.

The com­pro­mise in the Pence bill, cospon­sored by Sen. Kay Bai­ley Hutchi­son of Texas, is to have a phased “com­pre­hen­sive” process whereby a guest-worker pro­gram would be in­sti­tuted only af­ter the border is de­clared se­cure. This is an al­ter­na­tive to both the en­force­ment-first bill the House ap­proved last year, which we en­dorsed, and the Se­nate’s dis­as­trous amnesty pack­age. We can ac­cept the idea driv­ing Mr. Pence’s com­pro­mise bill be­cause it at­tempts to as­suage con­cerns that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, and in par­tic­u­lar this ad­min­is­tra­tion, has no real in­ter­est in clos­ing the border. We are per­suaded that the se­cu­rity pro­vi­sions in the Se­nate amnesty pack­age are merely empty prom­ises to win con­ser­va­tive votes.

Our ob­jec­tion to the Pence pro­posal is that the “trig­gers” by which the ad­min­is­tra­tion would de­ter­mine whether the border is se­cure are un­likely to work. In­stead of fo­cus­ing on the means (i.e., in­creas­ing Border Pa­trol agents, plac­ing sen­sors and build­ing phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers on the border), we be­lieve the com­pro­mise should fo­cus on the ends. This would re­quire hard num­bers as proof that the il­le­gal-im­mi­grant tide has ac­tu­ally di­min­ished to an ac­cept­able trickle. Com­pil­ing such per­sua­sive num­bers would likely take longer than the two years the Pence bill en­vi­sions.

We con­tinue to hold deep reser­va­tions about the rest of the Pence-Hutchi­son bill. We do not en­dorse it as writ­ten. As Sen. Jeff Ses­sions of Alabama pointed out ear­lier this month, the bill’s guest-worker pro­gram places al­most no limit on the num­ber of im­mi­grants who can come work in the United States. Mr. Pence at­tempts to jus­tify this pro­vi­sion by re­quir­ing private en­ti­ties to match a for­eign worker with a U.S. busi­ness, as if gullible con­ser­va­tive leg­is­la­tors would ac­cept any­thing as long as there’s a free-mar­ket fig leaf.

So­lu­tions to the im­mi­gra­tion cri­sis must rise above the ar­gu­ment that “there are jobs Amer­i­cans won’t do,” and be­yond the in­ter­ests of the busi­ness com­mu­nity. Pay­ing an im­mi­grant in Amer­i­can dol­lars does not make him an Amer­i­can. The an­swer to the cri­sis must turn on the ques­tion of whether any na­tion’s cul­ture and econ­omy can ab­sorb and in­te­grate mil­lions of for­eign­ers who, once here, have no in­ten­tion of leav­ing. The United States has shown it can, but with lim­its.

De­spite th­ese reser­va­tions, we urge Repub­li­can mem­bers to use the PenceHutchi­son com­pro­mise as a start­ing point. If a con­sen­sus can be reached that does not ig­nore na­tional se­cu­rity or leave the se­ri­ous prob­lems for a later Congress to solve, Repub­li­cans can prob­a­bly break the stale­mate. But they must be­gin, and at once.

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