Etch-a-Sketch on Immigration?

Mickey Kaus explores the different ways Romney might sell out immigration hawks now that he’s the de facto nominee. (The title of his post is a Speedy Gonzalez–like “El Hecho del Sketcho,” which is hilarious, though the real Spanish name of the toy is Pantalla Magica.) I think it’s likely that Mickey’s Option C, “the targeted concession,” is something we’ll see, specifically with regard to the DREAM Act (which is presumably why Rubio is floating the idea of a DREAM Act 2.0). Romney’s already said he supports the military-enlistment part of the DREAM Act, but that’s too “targeted”; it would cover only a trivial number of people, both because the military is shrinking and because it’s not that easy to be accepted for service, what with the IQ test, English language test, drug test, etc. — getting into a community college is a lot easier than getting in the Army.

I’ve written in some detail on these pages (or screens, or whatever) about what would have to be included in such a deal to make up for the harmful consequences of the amnesty. One key question would be what kind of status the legalized DREAMers would receive — would they get green cards, permitting them to eventually apply for citizenship, or would they get some kind of renewable nonimmigrant status, which would allow them to stay and work indefinitely, but not lead to citizenship.

The reason the renewable-visa option even comes up is because of the downstream effects of amnesty — the legalization beneficiaries would quickly be able to apply for admission of their relatives, both rewarding adult lawbreakers and leading to significant chain migration, as Rubio himself has noted. (A writer at HuffPo thinks the Center for Immigration Studies, which I head, thought up the renewable-visa concept — at the risk of debunking reports of my Svengali-like influence over Congress, I think Senator Hutchison came up with the idea some four or five years ago.) If the DREAMers have only renewable work visas, they can’t sponsor anyone for immigration in the future, eliminating the reward/chain migration problem.

While I have colleagues who support this approach, I’m not wild about it for two reasons: First, it still leaves these kids in a kind of limbo, and if we’re trying to get rid of a problem, let’s just rip off the band-aid and be done with it. And second, it introduces yet another level of administrative complexity in an immigration system that already makes Rube Goldberg’s cartoons seem simple and streamlined. I’d much rather address the reward/chain migration problem by giving the DREAMers green cards but abolishing the chain-migration legal immigration categories for parents and siblings and adult children, and thus limit family-based admissions to spouses and minor children. This is cleaner, simpler, and needed for many other reasons as well.

All that said, here’s another view, exploring the dangers of El Hecho del Sketcho, specifically that “Romney’s strong stance on immigration enforcement is one of his strongest ties to the conservative grassroots.”

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.