Immigration: All at Once, or Step by Step?


The Senate passed an omnibus immigration bill last year, 1,000+ pages long and larded with goodies for every interest group that was riding the “comprehensive immigration reform” train. Like all such massive bills, it was a mess, and the House GOP dismissed it out of hand, insisting on smaller, more targeted steps.

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) floated just such a piecemeal proposal last week. Its substance is flawed, but it’s an example of concrete thinking about what step-by-step immigration changes might look like. As a bonus, it puts the Democrats in a politically awkward position.

First, some context. The pro-comprehensive side argues that all immigration changes have to be stuffed into one big package for policy reasons – the various elements are inextricably connected, no change will work if done on its own, and so on. Hogwash. The omnibus approach is driven solely by political calculation. Every component of the coalition needs to get something out of the deal to stay in the game. Most crucially, the Hispanic Caucus and the hard left have vetoed any increase in skilled-worker visas for the tech industry unless it’s paired with a sweeping amnesty for virtually all 12 million illegal aliens.

But now it looks like the Republicans might retake the Senate (unless they screw it up), and the players are starting to explore new options. As one political science professor told USA Today, “Each of the coalition partners is unsure of how committed the other partners are.” Not long ago, the tech industry started making public noises suggesting it might cut its own deal with the GOP. This prompted a worried Senator Dick Durbin to send a letter last month to the industry begging them to stay in the comprehensive coalition. The Godwin-esque hyperbole of the following sentence suggests how desperate the pro-amnesty left is: “This ‘divide and conquer’ approach destroys the delicate political balance achieved in our bipartisan bill and calls into question the good faith of those who would sacrifice millions of lives for H-1B relief.” (My emphasis; the complete letter is here.)

That’s the context for Congressman Labrador’s comments. It almost looks like he’s toying with the pro-amnesty crowd, playing on their fear of being sold out by the tech industry. Without going into a lot of detail, he proposed repealing a re-entry bar imposed on people who’ve lived here illegally for more than six months in exchange for an increase in green cards for foreign students receiving graduate degrees in technical fields. His idea leaves a lot to be desired – it increases overall immigration when we should be cutting it instead, and includes no enforcement provisions, like universal use of the E-Verify screening system to ensure new hires are legal.

But as a political move, it’s already provoked the desired reaction. Frank Sharry, head of one of the most left-wing of the D.C.-based pro-amnesty groups, reacted angrily to Labrador’s proposal, telling the Washington Times, “This offer doesn’t come close to passing the laugh test. … they [Republicans] will feel the pressure of a changing electorate until they get on the right side of history.”

Sharry’s afraid for good reason. If the House passed something like Labrador’s proposal, Harry Reid couldn’t bring it up for a vote for fear it might pass and reduce Big Tech’s financial commitment to lobbying for amnesty. But the House GOP would be able to say, quite plausibly, that it had sent over a more realistic, targeted piece of legislation than the Senate’s 1,000-page monstrosity.

In any case, I say let a hundred flowers bloom, and a hundred targeted immigration proposals contend. Anything that exposes the fraudulent nature of the Senate’s “comprehensive” approach is useful.

There are 8 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Yeah...ok. Inactive

    Enforce existing law or repeal current law but please, no additional laws.

    • #1
  2. Pilli Inactive

    The first “target” needs to be to enforce existing immigration rules especially that of enforcing the requirements for crossing the border into the U.S.

    Then we can look at ways to improve immigration policy.

    (Yeah…ok beat me to it by that much.)

    • #2
  3. Dave Carter Podcaster
    Dave Carter

    Here’s a comprehensive approach I could endorse.  Let’s comprehensively, completely, authoritatively, and unapologetically control our nation’s borders.  Once upon a time, Congress approved the funding for necessary protective measures including physical barriers.  Finish the job and establish sovereignty over the nation’s border.  Let the feds first comprehensively master this most basic function of government.  If they can get that much right, we can move on to more complicated tasks afterward.

    • #3
  4. Mark Krikorian Contributor
    Mark Krikorian

    Labrador’s communications guy got back to me with more details on what his boss has in mind. This is the relevant part (which may be too wonky for most Ricochetti, but I should let him have his say):

    Rep. Labrador was referring to both HR 6429, the STEM Jobs Act, which passed the House in 2012, and HR 2132, the SKILLS Visa Act, which passed the House Judiciary Committee last year. Both bills eliminated the diversity visa lottery and transferred the visas to STEM workers. He would base his solution on the SKILLS Visa Act. He also would eliminate the visa category for siblings of U.S. Citizens. He believes the diversity and the sibling visa categories do not benefit the United States. These categories should be replaced with a combination of employment-based and family-based green cards. Rep. Labrador wants to carefully reform and modernize the immigration system, but does not believe that we should rush into a comprehensive solution that will do more harm than good.

    The takeaway is that Labrador is talking about an increase in overall annual immigration, beyond the 1.1 million green cards we already give out each year. That’s simply unacceptable. But if any increases were fully offset by eliminating existing (and ill-conceived) immigration categories, that can be a deal worth taking.

    • #4
  5. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines

    I say let a hundred flowers bloom, and a hundred targeted immigration proposals contend.

    Not only contend–some if them will be good ideas, only needing sequential enactment.

    Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, even stipulating that they were well-intended, are textbook examples of trying to do so large a thing in one bill.  Republicans and Conservatives will fare no better if we try the same thing.

    The only comprehensive aspect of immigration reform that should be passed is a timeline whose milestones are phases rather than dates on a calendar.  Pass one or two aspects of immigration reform in the first year.  In the second year, revisit those aspects and make necessary corrections (there will be some needed–that’s why comprehensive bills are loaded with failure), and pass the next one or two aspects.  In the third year (the next Congressional session–which means we need to win elections repeatedly, but that’s another topic), reassess the aspects passed, make the needed corrections, and pass the next one or two aspects.

    Repeat that, which leaves time and opportunity to make corrections along the way, before problems get serious, and we’ll wind up with sound immigration reform.

    Eric Hines

    • #5
  6. Mark Krikorian Contributor
    Mark Krikorian

    I obviously agree with demands that the feds to enforce the law. But while we keep demand that, each year our verkakte legal immigration system is letting in more than 1 million people a year, many of them in categories we shouldn’t have or need to be changed. Any target of opportunity to, say, get rid of the idiotic visa lottery is something we need to pay attention to.

    • #6
  7. Guruforhire Member

    I think first we need to sit down and examine the entire existential purpose of immigration and vicariously immigration policy.

    • #7
  8. user_129440 Member

    Thousand-page bills should not be passed, regardless of their stated objectives, because they’re designed not to be read and give legislators a plausible explanation for why the inevitable unintended consequences escaped their notice. Immigration reform begs for explicit step-by-step measures that must be executed before the next phase is addressed. Putting everything in one “comprehensive” bill depends on a level of trust and good will that President Obama has done his best to destroy with his selective enforcement of existing laws. In this case, the opposite of incremental change is excremental change.

    • #8

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.