Jon Stewart had a funny bit last night, responding to the new-found Republican support for immigration reform.  Losing an election they expected to win seems to have had a salubrious affect. But the immigration reform bill that’s currently under consideration is kind of remarkable.  Marco Rubio’s a bright young conservative with Presidential ambitions, plus, as a Hispanic, one presumes this is an issue he cares a lot about.  And the bill has bi-partisan support, always a good thing.  It has a chance of passing, is the point.  Even Rush Limbaugh may be sorta kinda aboard.  Which would give Republicans in the House political cover with the Tea Party Right if they supported something that’s still anathema to a lot of the Republican base.

The bill does include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers, which a lot of conservatives have tended previously to demonize as ‘amnesty.’  But it also comes with a trigger.  A commission of Southwestern officials–governors and law enforcement officials–would have to declare the border ‘secure.’  That’s what compromise looks like: conservatives want the border closed to illegal immigrants, but Democrats want amnesty and citizenship.  So the bill would basically call for an increase in border security, then when that was adequately accomplished, the stuff liberals like would kick in.

One issue here has to do with whether this commission’s role would be binding or advisory.  Another, though, has to do with who would be on it.  In other words, does this commission give Jan Brewer a veto over citizenship.

Jan Brewer is the current governor of Arizona. She’s the main spokeswoman for SB 1070, Arizona’s controversial anti-immigration bill.  And–how to say this kindly–Jan Brewer is, uh, one of God’s special people.  Check this out.  Or this.  She’s the ‘beheadings’ lady; a politician just flat out inventing this preposterous story that dozens of beheaded bodies have been found in Arizona’s desert, and that those (non-existent) bodies can be linked to illegal immigration. She’s exactly the sort of person who would be on this Rubio commission, and exactly the person who under no circumstances whatever should be on it.

So the debate is going on, and it’s possible that something may come of it. Democrats want comprehensive immigration reform, and, for reasons of their own, so do Republicans.  There remain significant differences between the bill Democrats supported last year and the new Rubio bill, and those differences could still scuttle it.  Still, there’s a chance.

But both bills, both approaches, suck.  The Rubio bill stinks.  So did the Democratic bill last year.  It’s certainly encouraging to see at least some prominent Republicans overcome the knee-jerk nativism that’s previously made this debate so disheartening.  Tom Tancredo’s ferociously stated opposition to any kind of reform has been largely discredited by the Republican establishment–mostly because Republicans would kind of like to win a national election sometime in their lifetimes.  But the Rubio bill is rotten.

Fact is, immigration is good for our country.  And basically every major talking point in this debate is factually wrong.

Example: both Republicans and Democrats want people who came here legally–‘folks who played by the rules’–to have first shot at citizenship. That’s a big talking point. And it sounds good: nobody likes queue jumpers, and nobody likes cheaters.  But green cards are doled out via a lottery. People desperate for work apply for legal resident status, then, if they’re not lucky enough to win the lottery, then they come over illegally.  It’s not a question of ‘rule of law’ or ‘obeying the rules,’ it’s just pure dumb luck.

Example: both sides agree that Hispanic illegal immigrants come here to ‘do the jobs most Americans don’t want to do.’  And that’s a little true.  But Hispanic immigrants are the single group mostly likely to become entrepreneurs.

Illegal immigrants ‘increase crime.’  Not true–they’re far less likely to commit crimes than citizens are.  They ‘drain our resources.’ Not true–they’re an economic plus.  Nationally, economically, immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits.  And the word ‘amnesty’ is completely insane–applying for citizenship is very difficult, takes forever, and costs thousands of dollars.

Plus, you know, we have a demographic problem in this country.  The Baby Boomers are just about to get really expensive, as they move into Medicare and Social Security.  Increasingly we’re adding retirees much faster than we’re adding workers.  The panicked Beltway response involves various proposals to cut benefits or push back the retirement age.  Instead, why not just open the borders?

That’s my proposal.  Let anyone who wants to come to our country undergo a background check.  If they don’t have a criminal record in their country of origin, give ’em a green card and welcome them in.  Then, if they want to apply for citizenship, that’s awesome.  Maybe have a three year waiting period.  But no penalties, no fines, and a lot less red tape.

This is an important issue to me, because of my Dad.  He came to this country from Norway, age 17.  He became a citizen by getting drafted to serve in the Army.  He’s as patriotic an American as you can imagine–sang the National Anthem for Indiana University basketball games for many years.

This country was build by immigrants.  And every group that came was subjected to nativist abuse from the groups already here.  The Irish were branded undesirables.  Then it was Chinese, or Jews, or southern Europeans.  Lately, it’s been Hispanics.  Every group has added to American greatness.  Let’s open our borders, and reap the benefits.


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