Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick mislead, promote bad immigration policy

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In the Wall Street Journal, Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick offer "Solving the Immigration Puzzle" (link).

I'll provide excerpts followed by a discussion of how they're misleading and promoting bad policy.

First, Bush & Bolick ("B&B" for short) want comprehensive immigration reform rather than "piecemeal" changes such as some form of DREAM Act and also instead of demanding that border security is addressed first (see secure the border, in the "first" sense).

For the GOP and (much more importantly) for the U.S., comprehensive "reform" is the worst possible outcome because of the lesson offered by the 1986 amnesty. The corrupt elites who try to undercut immigration laws now will simply pick and choose which aspects of the latest amnesty they want to enforce, and ignore the rest. We'd get the amnesty, without the promised enforcement. "Secure the border first" is bad policy, but at least supporters of immigration enforcement would be demanding something up front. B&B wouldn't demand anything but would simply put their trust in Obama, the Democrats, and corrupted GOP leaders to enforce the laws even though they've tried to undercut similar laws in the past.

B&B write:

The nature of the border-security problem has evolved. The only tried-and-true method of reducing illegal immigration is a bad economy. Thus, with a dismal American economy and an improving Mexican one, the net immigration from Mexico is now zero: As many Mexicans are leaving the U.S. as are entering it.

What they're unwittingly admitting is that attrition (aka "self-deport") would be a viable policy to reduce the number of illegal aliens in the U.S. Under attrition, we'd reduce the jobs and non-emergency benefits available to illegal aliens, encouraging them to make the logical decision to return home. In other words, being in the U.S. as an illegal alien would be like being in the U.S. in a bad economy, even when the economy is booming. Of course, there's no chance that B&B would support attrition: they want those illegal aliens to be legalized and remain here.

The driver of immigration policy is "chain migration." Since the 1960s, the vast majority of legal immigrants have come pursuant to a very broad definition of "family reunification"β€”which includes not only spouses and minor children but parents and siblings. Family preferences account for two-thirds of all legal immigrants, crowding out work-based immigration and placing increased pressure on social services.

When extended family members obtain legal status, they too are entitled to family preferences. This chain migration does not promote the nation's economic interests.

While it's good that they come out against chain migration, the "reform" they support would give more power to the Democrats who seek electoral profits from that immigration. The Democrats would have millions of new voters and could use that increased power base to push to restore more chain migration.

There is no "line." Critics of comprehensive reform often argue that illegal immigrants should return to their native countries and wait in line like everyone else who wants to come to America. But unless they have relatives in the U.S. or can fit within the limited number of work-based visas, no line exists for such individuals.

While the second sentence is true of many others, I don't argue they should go home and wait in line, but that they should simply return home and solve their own countries' problems. As for there not being such a line, why was that ever a part of our laws? There's a reason: so lower-skilled Americans aren't harmed by an influx of cheap foreign labor.

The U.S. needs workers of all types. The birthrate in this country has fallen below the level necessary to sustain the population at the very time that millions of Americans are leaving the workforce and expecting retirement benefits. The nation needs energetic young workers to spur the economy and support an ever-increasing social-welfare burden.

The only alternatives to increased immigration are mounting debts or reduced social services. A practicable system of work-based immigration for both high-skilled and low-skilled immigrants - a system that will include a path to citizenship - will help us meet workforce needs, prevent exportation of jobs to foreign countries and protect against the exploitation of workers.

As Rahm Emanuel said, "never let a good crisis go to waste". The lowered birthrate is probably due to the recession (link) and will probably pick up when the economy does. There are no doubt social factors involved, and B&B have no answer on that front. One solution would be to make family formation easier by reducing economic disparities rather than encouraging them as the GOP and the elites in general would do. It's the elites who've made family formation more difficult, such as by sending jobs overseas and by establishing the situation where many people have to work multiple jobs. Instead of working to keep the elites in check, B&B would give the elites what they want: more wage-lowering immigration. The first sentence in the second paragraph above is a false choice: another alternative would be to make it easier for U.S. citizens to start a family.

Regarding those "energetic young workers", we've got millions of younger illegal aliens in the U.S. If increasing the number of workers from Mexico was a solution, shouldn't our streets be paved with gold right now?

America especially needs high-skill workers. The K-12 education system is not producing nearly enough graduates with the skills needed for a vibrant 21st-century economy. This country has attracted, and still does attract, the best and brightest from throughout the world to its universities and businesses. But once here, even the most talented students are not assured that they will receive visas enabling them to work following graduation, and high-skill workers and entrepreneurs have no sure path to citizenship.

Other nations - including Canada, New Zealand and even China - are luring away students, workers and entrepreneurs with more sensible and welcoming immigration policies. If we do not adapt, we will be increasingly unable to compete.

If we aren't producing enough STEM and similar graduates, isn't increased immigration just papering over a very serious problem that should be addressed? Oddly enough, B&B support the papering over, not getting at the much deeper problem. Part of that problem is due to the increased low-skilled immigration that George W Bush allowed, but part of it is also under the general "idiocracy" umbrella. See also skilled immigration for the major downsides of what they support.

Amnesty promotes illegal immigration. The U.S. must find a fair way to deal with its 11 million illegal immigrants without sending the message that America's laws can be broken with impunity. Crossing the border illegally must have consequences. At the same time, we must recognize that children who were brought here illegally have committed no crime and in most instances know no other country.

Finally we agree on something, although that's only because they've redefined "amnesty" to not have the meaning that most Americans give it (see reform not amnesty). What they seem to be getting at is described at amnesty require: a deceptive way to sell amnesty to its opponents. Any form of legalization would send a completely wrong message, not just to illegal aliens but to the elites in business, the media, and other groups. See questions 4, 5, and 6 here.

The last sentence above promotes the anti-American DREAM Act. The pro-U.S. (and pro-Mexico) alternative is described here.

Immigrants replenish the American spirit. Most immigrants come here to secure a better life for themselves and their families. They cherish the values of hard work, faith, family, enterprise and patriotism that have made this country great. Meanwhile, many who were lucky enough to have been born here have grown complacent or even disdainful of these values. America's immigration system should provide opportunities for people who share the country's core values to become citizens, thereby strengthening the nation as have countless immigrants have before them.

Ah, the inevitable "up with immigrants, down with Americans!" bit. I'm vaguely reminded of George W. Bush congratulating a divorced mother of three kids on having to work three jobs ( ).

As with others above, B&B would paper over deeper problems. They're also misleading: while many legal immigrants do cherish all the values they list, others only value some. Illegal aliens aren't coming here because they cherish U.S. patriotism, but simply to make money. Legalizing them wouldn't tend to make them patriotic to the U.S. and they might retain their past allegiances (and form an even greater power base inside the U.S. for the Mexican government and other governments).

Please write @JebBush and @lawyer4liberty with your thoughts. Even better, do a Twitter search for those promoting the ideas of B&B, and send them a link to this page.