The Great Immigration Non-Debate
Americans need to know about and debate a lot more than amnesty and security.


Charles C. W. Cooke

Usually, I am an outspoken critic of democracy. Unless it is severely checked, majoritarianism carries with it the inherent and ineluctable flaw that voters may use their power to deprive their fellow citizens of their liberty and their property.

Immigration, however, is a virtuous exception to the rule. Immigrants do not have a “right” to live in the United States but are admitted only with the permission of the native polity. Which of our national issues could be more deserving of widespread public input than that of who is to join the country’s ranks? Why is it missing?

Serious questions proliferate. In its search for a compromise, the Gang of Eight has pretty much wiped away the current legal-immigration system and started over. Do Americans know how that system worked and what they are losing? More important, do they know what they are gaining in its stead, and with what they will likely be stuck for the next 30 or so years?

Do they want the total amount of immigration to increase significantly, as S.744 allows? What mixture of skilled and unskilled immigrants does the public consider appropriate for a nation with an unemployment problem and a dysfunctional welfare state? Is the bill right to abolish the green-card lottery, which grants permanent residency to a randomly chosen 50,000 people per year?

Is establishing a points regime for skilled immigrants — similar to the systems used by Britain, Australia, and Canada — a good thing?

The bill lifts country-specific limits on employment-based immigrant visas, which opens the door for new immigrant populations to be dominated by India and China. Is it a sensible thing for the United States to abandon its long-held policy goal of ensuring that the country is not asked to assimilate too many immigrants from one place at any given time? If so, what price “diversity”?

And do Americans know that, as the Immigration Policy Center notes, “family- or employment-based applicants whose applications have been pending five years or more under the current system will become eligible for a visa”? Or that the new system abolishes the “immigrant category for siblings of U.S. citizens,” and that “visas will no longer be available to married sons or daughters of U.S. citizens who are over 30 years of age”? Do they recognize that, even after these changes, family connections and not skills will still serve as the way in for the vast majority of immigrants?

We are told by advocates of amnesty that we must at least acknowledge that the Hispanic beneficiaries of S.744 are “already here.” This is indisputably true, so surely the more important demographic question is, “Who new will this bill let in, and does that suit us?”

As with most things, Americans have various responses to these questions. Still, they can answer them only if they are asked — and they have not been asked. Harry Reid had better rush his bill through before a national debate breaks out.

— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer at National Review.