A Compromising Compromise

If this is a compromise, what on earth would a surrender look like?

Details of the latest bi-partisan version of the Senate immigration bill are still coming out, but early reports suggest that any illegal immigrant who has been in the U.S. for five or more years would be on an immediate path to citizenship if the bill finally becomes law with that provision. How can anyone possibly argue that is not an amnesty?

But the amnesties don’t end there. Illegal immigrants here between two and five years get to “leave the country” by visiting a U.S. international airport, walking through the immigration line (“How many days have you been out of the country?” “Er, fifteen minutues.”), and then embarking on their own path to citizenship. Illegal immigrants here for two year or less have to go home and come back really–something many of them do now for vacations.

But we are assured that these things are not amnesties since getting to full citizenship will require some effort–learning English etc. I am reminded of Malcolm Bradbury’s remark about a poor state university: “You have to pass an intelligence test to go there–you have to be able to find out where it is.”

The apparent principle underlying these proposals are that the longer and more comprehensively you have broken the law, the better deal you will get from the federal government. But everyone illegal has won and all shall have prizes.

I can see why the Democrats favor such a bill. It is a giant Democratic voter registration scheme paid for by the federal government. Maybe this one action will save them electorally from all their other follies. But the Republicans are voting for their own marginalization–in the long term because they are importing low paid workers likely to vote Democrat; in the short term by ensuring that the continuing battles over this legislation (with noises off coming from illegal immigrant demos sheltering under the Mexican flag) will drive their base ever more nuts as the election approaches.

But one possible explanation is that Republicans like McCain and Specter have been taking advice from Nick Machiavelli and my late UPI colleague, Jim Chapin, who once said: “Republicans have a choice. They can either change their policy on immigration, or they can change all their other policies.”