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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Immigration Enforcement Is Not Enough

From the Wall Street Journal (subscription):

Any sensible immigration reform would focus not just on keeping illegals out of the country, but also on why they're coming and how to get the estimated 11 million illegals already here out of the shadows. Yet last year the House whooped through a bill that expands enforcement and nothing else...

This is the same mistake the restrictionists made in 1986, when President Reagan signed a bill legalizing three million workers but didn't create a mechanism -- dispensing enough green cards -- for the economy to get the workers it needed in the future. Some 500,000 people continue to enter the U.S. illegally every year, and the strong economy and low jobless rate (4.8%) are evidence that these undocumented workers aren't "stealing" jobs but simply filling them.

The U.S. dispenses only about 10,000 green cards annually for unskilled workers. And by not providing enough paths to permanent residency for those who want to stay, we're setting ourselves up for another large illegal population down the road. Under current law, foreign workers in high-tech fields can extend their stay if an employer sponsors them for a green card. Why should the same rules that apply to Intel's engineers not also apply to Marriott's chambermaids and California's farm hands?

Like the House bill, Mr. Specter's proposal also includes over-the-top security measures like expanding the definition of "alien smuggling" to include church soup-kitchen operators and people who take in relatives who are here illegally. Mr. Specter would also create an army of federal agents and prosecutors to "investigate" immigration violations. But it makes little sense to start raiding businesses and driving foreigners further underground without first expanding the legal ways for the economy to get the workers it needs.

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