So the Senate has passed “The Immigration Bill,” and depending on which pundit you believe there is at least a non-trivial chance that Boehner will allow a few Republicans to join the Democrats in the House to eventually get The Bill, or something rather similar, to Obama’s desk.
As usual, I am generally skeptical that anything too good can come out of a 1,000+ pages that most Congressmen probably haven’t even read, much less understood. In general it is supposed to represent some sort of classic Washingtonian compromise, but if it’s a compromise between the welfare-happy clowns on the left and the national-security-happy clowns on the right, there may be little for even the immigration-happy libertarian types to like.
The General Idea
The Bill is supposed to include a long path to citizenship for
illegal “undocumented” immigrants in exchange for a no-seriously-we’re-serious-this-time securing of the border. There are already plenty of conservative types claiming it still doesn’t do enough to secure the border and this is just another round of future-liberal-voter amnesty.
I haven’t read enough to parse those claims, and I have a difficult time taking solid stances on anything related to immigration. I’m not sure how much I really want a “secure border” anyway; economically and politically I’m all for free travel and trade and all that jazz, and I generally expect immigrants to “take” jobs but also “supply” jobs just like any other physical humans who generally occupy space around us; there may even be a net gain with educated students and entrepreneurs and the like. And there’s a strong case that existing quotas and rules are both inefficient and unjust.
The big question, of course, is whether or not The Bill will result in too many new poor citizens who stay poor, dragging down the budget in a way that offsets the economic growth of their new freedom to become better tax-paying American consumers. Any answers to that question are Large Calculations too beholden to existing biases to be very useful.
However, while I’m not sure whether I support or oppose the overall premises of the bill, there are a few specifics in those 1,000+ pages that I definitely don’t like.
First, there’s the “mandatory use of E-verify, a free, online federal database of people eligible to work in the U.S.” In theory this is a good way to make sure businesses aren’t hiring illegal immigrants. In practice, it’s yet another regulation for businesses that don’t need any more incentives (*cough* Obamacare *cough*) to reduce hiring; I don’t know how the details work, but I wonder if this will further encourage contracting type arrangements over regular employment. And of course, it’s yet another example of federal encroachment into everyday life – now the government knows every time you apply for a job.
Second, there’s the rumblings of a “National ID” card. It sounds like it’s not nearly as bad as a lot of conservative emails want it to be (they’ve been freaking out about such things since at least the “REAL ID Act“), but there’s at least enough stuff about some “photo tool” to make me uneasy. The assurance that “the federal government can only access state driver’s license photos if the state and the federal government enter into an agreement to share them” doesn’t mean much if states are given incentives to do just that.
In summary, the main provisions of the bill may or may not lead to increased prosperity for the nation, but there are at least a couple freedom-encroaching things in those thousand-plus pages, and those are just the ones I know about. So I guess I’m hoping the bill doesn’t pass. But I’m not too worked up about it either way.