Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A better direction...

While the Immigration Plan lives - despite Pres. Bush's well-meaning blunder - to see another day, its fate is very much in doubt.
The senators voted, 64 to 35, to invoke cloture, or move to consideration of the bill itself. Since 60 votes are required for cloture, and only 45 voted for cloture two weeks ago, the measure’s supporters were heartened by today’s vote. Had the cloture vote failed today, the bill would have been dead for the foreseeable future.

The Senate’s next step is to consider a batch of amendments, some designed to be easier on illegal immigrants, some meant to be tougher. The amendments’ differing intentions underline the fragility of the coalition behind the bill.

Another make-or-break cloture vote could come before this weekend, and it is by no means certain that those who voted for cloture today will vote for the bill itself. [More]

This could be some of the best work this Congress will do, because you can be sure few of them want to wrestle with this issue. Nonetheless, problems like this are their job and regardless of the outcome, it is encouraging to this observer to see Congress vote for something rather against everything.

Still, along with others, I think I have found an immigration plan that addresses our real problems better.
Another problem, though, was that the Senate bill was worse than it needed to be. On the legal side of the immigration equation, there are easy trade-ups to be had. In fact, even a National Journal columnist with no apparent qualifications could write a better bill.

And what might that look like? Glad you asked.

* First, raise the number of legal immigrants by about 50 percent, to about 1.8 million a year. That meets the economy's demonstrated demand for workers.

* Second, provide pathways to permanence. Bring in these 1.8 million people on temporary visas, say for three to five years, with the promise of permanent legal residency (a green card) if they stay out of trouble, pose no security risk, and work or get a college degree.

* Third, don't micromanage who gets in. Allocate visas using a simple three-way formula that gives about equal weight to family, work, and education: 600,000 family visas for close relatives of citizens and green-card holders; 600,000 work visas for people who are sponsored by an employer and have less than a bachelor's degree; 600,000 education visas for people who hold a bachelor's degree or higher, with first call going to those who also have employer sponsorships or family ties. [More]
It may strike many of you as wrong-headed to argue for the economic merits of immigration when our culture itself seems to be at risk. I think we underestimate our ability to absorb and synthesize a new America with both Hispanic and European flavors. Besides, as I have argued ad nauseaum, the future belongs to those who will populate it. The Chinese will certainly be there, and the Indians, and with immigrants' help, America could be too.
The U.S. Census Bureau this week reported that Hispanics, the largest minority at 42.7 million, are the nation's fastest-growing group. They are 14.3 percent of the overall population, but between July 2004 and July 2005, they accounted for 49 percent of US population growth. Of the increase of 1.3 million Hispanics, the Census Bureau reported, 800,000 was because of natural increase (births minus deaths), and 500,000 was due to immigration. [More]
Many feel that national destiny is a function of wealth. I argue that our wealth is a function of population - that a growing economy needs a growing population, and furthermore, we can support far more people in the US that we have now.

After all farmers haven been arguing that for decades, and now if we have enough productivity to add fuel to our output, we can surely feed a few more fellow citizens.

At the center of our fears is, I think, the loss of our language and Northern European heritage. People speaking another language in OUR country stirs strong emotions. We have been here before. But I have great faith in the power of English ans a language and the American culture to absorb competing ways of life, simply because it is an amalgam itself. Our ability to find a new hybrid extends to more than just corn.

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