Wednesday, June 20, 2007


[posted by Callimachus]

I have no answers on immigration, and I confess I haven't had time to study it in any depth that would justify having an opinion about the recent bill. I am disturbed by the image of bloggers and pundits leading a stampede against Congressional compromise legislation as the worst symptom of pure democracy run amok. But I'm not sure that's what happened here.

Without a detailed understanding of all the social and economic complexities, I fall back on the "what seems fair" approach. Which seems to put me in the company of a great many Americans on this one, and for all I know it is a better way to find the right approach than months of issue-parsing.

This seems fair:

First, raise the number of legal immigrants by about 50 percent, to about 1.8 million a year. That meets the economy's demonstrated demand for workers.

Second, provide pathways to permanence. Bring in these 1.8 million people on temporary visas, say for three to five years, with the promise of permanent legal residency (a green card) if they stay out of trouble, pose no security risk, and work or get a college degree.

Third, don't micromanage who gets in. Allocate visas using a simple three-way formula that gives about equal weight to family, work, and education: 600,000 family visas for close relatives of citizens and green-card holders; 600,000 work visas for people who are sponsored by an employer and have less than a bachelor's degree; 600,000 education visas for people who hold a bachelor's degree or higher, with first call going to those who also have employer sponsorships or family ties.