The immigration bill as a whole is a monstrosity, but the supposed shift from family unification to a merit-based point system is the section of it I’ve been focusing on. (“Unassimilated extended clan creation” might be a better term than “family unification.” The current system goes way beyond immediate family, and is particularly dangerous when applied to cultures–like Muslim culture–that build themselves around extended clans.) The fundamental absurdity of this “reform” is that the bill actually provides for eight years of increased family unification before the point system fully kicks in. That’s a killer right there as far as I’m concerned. This bill actually aggravates the problem it’s supposed to be curing.
What are the prospects that, eight years from now, the point system will actually replace family unification? It seems most unlikely. There is no strong constituency in favor of this reform. Immigration critics like it, to be sure, but they are (rightly) focused on issues like am… sorry, Christmas, and border enforcement.
On the other hand, the notion of a merit-based point system has several powerful enemies. Business interests don’t like it, and immigration advocates positively hate it. Already, the knives are out for a point system that isn’t even supposed to fully take over for eight years. Nancy Pelosi has attacked the point system and promised that family reunification would be a central plank in any immigration legislation that comes out of the House. Today’s Washington Post reports that senators “Leahy and Menendez would preserve the point system but grant more weight to applicants with family members in the United States.” In other words, Leahy and Mendendez would preserve the shell of a point system, while effectively gutting it by turning it into a new basis for family unification. On top of that, Menendez is going to push to more than double the existing eight year backlog of 567,000 family unification applicants. He plans to add visas for an additional 800,000 applicants who applied between May 2005 and January 2007.
Given the priority of family unification for the Democrats, the opposition by business, and the focus of immigration critics elsewhere, the notion that we are going to see a full-fledged point system take over eight years from now is laughable. The claim that we are shifting from family unification to a merit-based point system is nothing but bogus window dressing. The current bill actually accelerates family unification, and Democrats in the House and Senate are determined to go much further even than that. Again, the notion that we are moving to a merit-based immigration point system is a joke.