Week Two of the Immigration Compromise

It may be Memorial Day, but much of the media discourse centers on labor, immigration and the debate over the compromise bill in the Senate. On Sunday the Washington Post ran details of the deal-making that led to the compromise legislation:

The horse-trading continued up to the last minute. Early in the day on which the senators announced their deal this month with the White House, Sen.

Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) called Graham to voice concern, Graham said, that the deal still did not go far enough to help low-income workers. So the senators agreed to add five points for workers who have completed a certified vocational-training program. “It hit home with me because I have a cousin who had one of those certificates,” Graham said. (People with graduate degrees could earn 20 points, by contrast.)

NZ Bear (of Porkbusters fame) set up an interactive version of the bill. As he says, the PDF version is fine “if you plan on printing out all 326 pages of it, not so good if you are a blogger who wants to comment on a particular section and show your readers exactly what you’re talking about. So I’ve taken the copy published by NRO and parsed it into a format that allows for easy browsing online.” Unfortunately, debate on the site is dominated by immigration critics—pro-immigrant advocates are not present.

Is the immigration bill splitting the Democrats or the Republicans? Politico says the Dems:

The biggest threats to an immigration bill spearheaded by Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy have come from within: Twice this week, senators from his own Democratic Party were poised to back amendments that could have killed the fragile compromise…The list of skeptical Democrats bisects the country. They come from Michigan, where unemployment rates dwarf the national average, and from the Northern Plains states, where charges of amnesty can be politically treacherous. They also hail from California, where wages languish behind the cost of living, and from the Northeast, where manufacturers are fleeing in search of cheaper labor.

The LA Times says it’s the GOP:

Analysts say the national trend and the tenor of the current debate could spur the kind of realignment that boosted California Democrats after Republican Gov. Pete Wilson’s 1994 embrace of anti-illegal immigration measures.”Republicans have become a more menacing party to Hispanics over the past year,” said Simon Rosenberg, president of the NDN, which has spent millions of dollars targeting Latino voters and documenting the pre-2006 GOP gains.

The LA Times also reports that visitors to U.S. Parks are being adversely affected by visa delays for foreign workers.

Despite six-day workweeks and overtime efforts by on-the-scene Delaware North staffers, visitors found that housekeeping was hours behind schedule and managers were filling in at front-line positions….The pool at Yosemite Lodge, for instance, is supposed to open, but it won’t unless management can find some lifeguards quickly. It’s still unclear how many of those foreign workers will arrive in time for the season…Immigration legislation currently before the U.S. Senate could bring relief. One provision would more than double the number of temporary visas issued annually.

In Reason LA Times Web Editor, and Hit and Run founder Tim Cavanaugh ask, what about NAFTA?

The solution to the immigration crisis, if there is such a crisis, does not rest in guest worker programs or higher visa quotas, but in the one possibility nobody is mentioning: eliminating visas altogether within the NAFTA countries, and allowing Canadians, Americans, and Mexicans with legitimate passports to travel freely among our three countries for any reason or for no reason. This was the early vision of Ronald Reagan, and it was certainly an implied outcome of the North American Free Trade Agreement. “NAFTA had an effect on the Mexican economy, in terms of encouraging campesinos to leave the farm and seek better opportunities,” says Fred Tsao, policy director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant Rights, “but we’ve shut off the legal opportunities for people to do that.”

The pathetic aspect of this debate is that visaless NAFTA borders would not even be a novel step. They would be a partial return to the way things were in the golden age, when the Tancredos, the Sensenbrenners, and the Cavanaughs first fouled these shores. Anti-illegal-immigrant types who never tire of pointing out that their ancestors came here legally are making a hollow argument: Until fairly recently in American history, there was no motive for illegal immigration; all a prospective American had to do was show up. It’s a sign of a timid and tired nation that, in a period of economic expansion, we’re not even willing to allow such an open system for our immediate neighbors and closest trading partners. “Guest worker provisions are an attempt to recapture some of the circularity that happened in the past, when people moved more freely between countries,” says Tsao.  

Relatedly, WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show last week asked “What’s so wrong with amnesty?”
and La Opinion sites the Migration Policy Institute’s observation that the bill’s proposed points system would reduce migration from Latin America:

Un análisis preparado por el Instituto de Política Migratoria, una organización no partidaria y considerada como moderada políticamente, señala que, bajo el sistema que está planteado, los inmigrantes de Latinoamérica, particularmente México y Centroamérica, estarían en clara desventaja.

“Los inmigrantes de Latinoamérica enfrentarán muchas dificultades con el sistema de puntos, dependiendo del peso de cada categoría”, señala un documento emitido por la organización.





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