After writing about immigration on Thursday, and debating Mark Krikorian about it Saturday at the National Review Institute, I was eager to read the “bipartisan framework” rolled out today.
Unfortunately the “framework” isn’t legislative language and it was the language about “Z Visas” that sank the last attempt to deal with the issue. At first glance is there up-to-date-information about the border fence or its proposed extensions, no specifics on how many years –10, 15 20?– a regularized resident would have to wait until becoming eligible for benefits and voting and whether that regularized resident would have to return home to wait for citizenship in line with other would-be immigrants as opposed to staying here as a permanent resident but without voting rights, and no details on how the broken visa system or the not-yet-mandatory E-Verify programs would work.
It is a speech outline, and a not very good one at that. What is needed is a bill. An actual honest-to-goodness bill that free people can read and debate. Will the sharpies inside the Beltway ever figure out that those of us who can read don’t have the highest opinions of their drafting ability or a great deal of trust that that which they say they will do they will do.
It would be a good thing to pass an immigration bill, but it needs to be a good on and there needs to be a debate about it.
Here are the key graphs from the Rubio piece:
The third key area: addressing the undocumented immigrants already here. Those who have committed serious crimes in the United States should be found, arrested and deported.
Most of those who are undocumented are not dangerous criminals. But most are also not victims. They knowingly broke our immigration laws and do not have a legal right to remain here. But they are also human beings who made those choices in pursuit of a dream we recognize as the American dream.
The best thing for our country is to deal with this issue in a humane but responsible way that ensures this never happens again – not because anyone has a “right” to reside here illegally, but because, with or without documents, most of them are here to stay.
We can’t round up millions of people and deport them. But we also can’t fix our broken immigration system if we provide incentives for people to come here illegally – precisely the signal a blanket amnesty would send.
Instead, the first step should be to require those who have not committed any felonies and are assimilated into America, to have the opportunity to apply for temporary non-immigrant status. To receive this status, they will have to come forward, admit wrongdoing, undergo a background check and pay back taxes and a meaningful fine for violating our laws.
To keep this status, they must maintain clean criminal records. And they will not be able to receive welfare, student aid or any other federal public assistance.
It’s not a good idea to have millions of people permanently trapped in an immigration status that keeps them forever at a distance from our society. Therefore, once our new enforcement measures are certifiably in place, they should be allowed to apply for permanent status – not through a special pathway, but through the new and modernized legal immigration process we envision. They will have to wait behind everyone who applied before them legally. And when their turn comes up, they will have to meet the conditions of the visa they apply for.
One of the keys to the upcoming debate will be good data on how the actual legislation would work. (“How many people are “standing in line” in Mexico waiting for visas?” for example.) I hope the young wizards at Gravitas, a public policy database company, have pulled togther one of their mega databases on this issue.