The Pros and Cons of the Immigration Bill

by Ramesh Ponnuru

In the latest issue of NR, I write about the CBO reports on the immigration bill and the reactions to them–and how they show that much of what’s important about the bill isn’t being discussed. I note the dubious assumptions behind and the limits of some of the economic and budgetary conclusions the CBO reached, and then add:

But there is more to a nation than its GNP, or its federal budget. The CBO seems to be assuming that roughly 20 million immigrants would come to this country over the next decade if the bill passed, while 10 million would come if it did not. So during the next decade we would see about twice the level of immigration (legal and illegal) that we have had over the last decade. That very high level of immigration would have effects on our culture and our politics as well as on our economy and budget, and we should neither rule these out of the discussion nor, what amounts to the same thing, assume that they will all be good.

My own chief concern about this legislation is its effect on assimilation. Will the bill make it more or less likely that newcomers to this country will be able to be full participants in American life? That is, will they not only succeed economically but become part of our common culture even as their contributions change it? Will natives and newcomers alike, whatever their ethnic background or income, see themselves as having common interests and a common identity as citizens of the United States?

I assess the bill with these considerations in mind, concluding that it presents big risks without a great deal of upside.