The Corner

Politics & Policy

Goodlatte’s Immigration Bill – A Worthy Compromise

Rather than focus obsessively on the frivolous Gang of Six bill in the Senate, news coverage needs to pay more attention to the “Secure America’s Future Act” by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, the only DACA proposal out there worth the attention of conservatives. As part of negotiations yesterday to get the stopgap funding bill passed, the Freedom Caucus got a commitment from Speaker Paul Ryan to bring it up for a vote.

The bill includes the measures the White House has insisted be in any immigration bill, plus some more: It abolishes the extended-family chain migration categories and the visa lottery, authorizes wall funding and extra border agents, cracks down on sanctuary cities and asylum abuse, and mandates E-Verify.

It also would essentially codify DACA for its current beneficiaries, rather than open a whole new can of worms for 2 or 3 million “DACA-eligible” people, as all other proposals would do.

Some conservative House members who support the bill fear voter blowback for supporting amnesty. And, of course, the DACA provisions would be an amnesty, or at least an upgrade from DACAs’ current amnesty-lite to amnesty-premium (though it doesn’t provide green cards, only work permits).

This fear isn’t idle. Some member offices and D.C.-based restrictionist groups have gotten irate calls, some of them generated by a one-man web site posing as a Hill player. There are always going to be some people who will oppose any amnesty, however small, even if it came paired with literally every item on the restrictionist wish list.

But my sense is that a GOP House member’s vote for the Goodlatte bill would yield far more support from his or her base than opposition. Letting the DACAs stay legally is popular, even with conservatives – not only did they come here as minors, but they’re the ones who actually came forward and signed up for the program. Yes, DACA is illegal, but that’s on Obama – these people just took him up on his offer.

More concretely, Numbers USA, the nation’s leading grassroots immigration-reduction organization, has endorsed the bill. When the group that stopped George W. Bush’s amnesty onslaught and has more Facebook followers than the NRA gives you cover to vote for a bill that includes some amnesty provisions, you’d seem to be covered.

What’s more, the White House has endorsed the bill, as have other conservatives.

This isn’t to say the bill is perfect. Joining the amnesty on the negative side of the ledger is an expansion of the agricultural guestworker program to cover dairies and meatpacking, and a reallocation of some (but not all) of the reductions in green cards from cutting chain migration and the lottery to the existing skilled immigration categories (though without the streamlining of that system that the Raise Act calls for).

But that’s what compromise is about. The farmworker program expansion, for instance, is the price of getting the agricultural interests to drop their opposition to E-Verify. (The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also supports mandatory E-Verify.)

The lazy media labeling of this as a “hardliner bill” is as silly as it is predictable – it’s a compromise measure that nonetheless yields important advantages for immigration hawks. The gains from passage are so far-reaching – especially ending chain migration and mandating E-Verify – that they’re worth amnesty for a small and unique sliver of the illegal population.

On balance, the Goodlatte bill would be a huge step toward an immigration policy in the national interest.

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

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