Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Malaise is back. Gas prices are rising and approval ratings are dropping proportionately. As of this moment, intrade.com has the probability of the Republicans keeping the House between 49% and 50%. What are Republicans doing about all this? Fighting amongst themselves about immigration and spending.

Bush's recent immigration speech has just dug the hole deeper. Immigration hawks won't trust Bush's promises to secure the border. We all know Bush is only two-thirds of a real conservative, and a big part of the missing one-third is about immigration. (Though a bigger part is about small government.) As for the guest worker plan, who actually supports this other than some businesses? Why settle for a mere guest worker when we could get a new citizen instead? And what about the many guest workers who would inevitably end up staying permanently? These we would like to assimilate; hence, it would be foolish to deny them a path to citizenship.

My prediction: Congress will pass an enforcement-only immigration bill, though not as tough as the House bill.

My wish: Congress would also reform our foolishly overly restrictive H-1B system so as to encourage more skilled foreigners to come here and become citizens. (While I'm at it, I can always wish Bush would force Congress to cut spending.)

Let me add that I like the idea of securing the Mexican border a lot more than I do of increasing internal immigration enforcement. The former does far less damage to the liberties of the people for whom the United States government is supposed to secure liberties. Furthermore, those liberties include property rights that are being poorly protected if you live near a popular crossing point. As for the unhappy choice between amnesty or deportation for illegal immigrants already here, I wonder if we really have to make that choice. If we could reduce the rate of illegal immigration by an order of magnitude with increased border security, then why not just maintain the current level of internal enforcement? Current illegal immigrants chose to live and work here off the books; let them live with that choice. If we can be confident their numbers will drop in the long term, then perhaps we can live with that choice too.

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