An immigration bill that tries really hard but looks really ugly

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I’ve been thinking it’s my duty as a business/economics blogger to say something about the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, but I’ve struggled to figure out what. Happily, Clive Crook takes care of at least part of the job in today’s FT (subscription required):

At a glance, the Senate proposal has much to be said for it. First, it is a painstakingly crafted compromise, supported by Democrats and Republicans alike, with a White House endorsement as well. Second, its chief opponents have set their face against any kind of middle ground, which is an unappealing posture. Third, some such reform is certainly needed: the current system has all but collapsed. Fourth, most of the amendments now being suggested (as the bill moves to a final Senate vote) would make the plan worse.

In short, by Washington standards, the bill is a marvel. What a sad reflection on those standards it is to realise that by any other measure the bill is a flop.

Crook maintains that the bill is a flop because it just won’t work. Its “amnesty” provisions are so harsh and, barring some sort of law enforcement miracle, the border will remain so leaky that the incentives that draw illegal immigrants to the U.S. won’t go away. I don’t know if he’s right about that, but it certainly sounds like a reasonable argument. I do really like the fact that the bill would move us towards skills-based immigration quotas (which Australia and Canada already have). And I don’t think sticking with the status quo is really tenable. It’s an ugly choice. Which is what legislating is all about, I guess.

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